Women's History Month
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10 Mar 2020
Happy Women’s History Month! In honor of this month, we're highlighting a few of the brave and talented women from Charleston who influenced the course of history. These women were pioneers for their generations and helped lay the groundwork for the influential women of the present day.
Sarah Campbell Allan (1860-1933) – Sarah was a Charleston native and as a young adult applied to Medical College of South Carolina. She was rejected for being a woman but she did not give up. With the support of her father she went on to study medicine at the South Carolina College for Women and went to medical school at the Women’s Medical College in New York. In 1894 she returned to Charleston and was a part of the first sitting for the South Carolina Medical Board. She was the only woman who showed up, scored the highest grade of the 14 applicants, and become the first woman doctor in the state of South Carolina. Following her licensure, she went on to have a career working in patient care and teaching at the South Carolina Hospital for the Insane.
Laura Mary Bragg (1881-1978) – Laura earned a library science degree from Simmons College in 1906 and in 1909 moved to Charleston to work as a librarian at the Charleston Museum. She diligently worked to advocate for the advancement of public science education and was named the Director of the Charleston Museum in 1920. She was the first woman in the country to hold this title. Laura remained a leader in promoting knowledge by founding the Poetry Society of South Carolina, helping the museum purchase and restore the historic Heyward-Washington House, and adding a children’s library to lend books at the museum. She even played a role in Civil Rights by opening the museum to the black community one day a week - which was a huge step forward during this time period.
Dorothy Heyward (1890-1961) – Dorothy was a successful playwright and novelist. She studied playwriting at Harvard University. While attending a summer residency she met her husband Dubose Heyward - who she married in 1923. Dorothy and her husband worked together to produce a dramatized version of his novel “Porgy” which became called “Porgy & Bess”. Some of her well known works are the plays “South Pacific” and “Set My People Free”.
Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987) – Septima was born into a poor family in Charleston that diligently worked to send her to Avery Institute where she studied to become a teacher. After years of teaching at private rural schools, she became an advocate to let black people teach at public schools. In 1920 that state legislature accomplished that. Later in her life she became one of the leaders in the Civil Rights Movement and is credited with creating the “citizenship school” model of political activism. She has been greatly awarded and recognized for her contributions to equal education and civil rights across the country. These recognitions include awards such as an honorary doctorate from the College of Charleston, the “Living Legacy” award from President Jimmy Carter, and being the recipient of the Order of the Palmetto which is the highest honor in the State of South Carolina.