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Women in Politics and Government in South Carolina


South Carolina Political Collections actively seeks the papers of women and women’s organizations which relate to government and politics. In addition to those collections, the papers of the political parties and other leaders in government may be less obvious, but are of great value in documenting women in politics and government. Women have long played major roles in party affairs, though during the 20th Century, these roles were more often behind the scenes than as office holder and candidate.

Legislative files in the papers of members of Congress and the General Assembly and of other office holders are replete with primary documentation related to women and women’s issues such as reproductive rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. And spouses often played critical roles in the careers of their partners.

Gladys Johnston was a valued partner to her husband, governor and U.S. Senator Olin D. Johnston. Millie Dorn was a journalist before she married Congressman Bryan Dorn and served as his office and campaign manager after their marriage. First ladies such as Josephine McNair, Lois West, “Tunky” Riley, Iris Campbell, Rachel Hodges, and Jenny Sanford each played significant roles and are represented in their husbands’ collections.


Following are some key collections held by SCPC documenting women in politics. Detailed descriptions of these and other SCPC collections open for study are available at our website: South Carolina Political Collections

From the Archives

Collection Connections

Affiliated with the Democratic Party of South Carolina, this organization works for the election of Party candidates; initiates and carries out programs and projects on behalf of the Party and its candidates; and encourages women to become involved in the Democratic Party at all levels.

Comprised chiefly of the records of the Bradley, Graham, & Hamby Advertising and Public Relations Agency, primarily 1954-1974, the collection documents their work for a range of political candidates. This firm was unique when formed as each of the partners was a woman.

Papers document her service as a leader in the League of Women Voters and other organizations, including the South Carolina Environmental Coalition. Kelly was particularly active in the League’s efforts to study the impact of nuclear energy on the environment.

The collection chiefly documents Keyserling’s tenure in the South Carolina House of Representatives (Beaufort County), 1977-1992, and the areas in which she developed expertise, including the arts, Beaufort County, education, and energy.

These include the papers of the League of Women Voters of Columbia/Richland County, League of Women Voters of South Carolina, and League of Women Voters of Spartanburg. These extensive collections document all manner of issues, chiefly affecting state and local government, since 1919.

These papers in the collection of Thomas S. and Clara G. McMillan document her life. After the death of her husband, Congressman Thomas McMillan (1888-1939), Mrs. McMillan became the second woman elected to Congress from South Carolina when she was elected to complete her husband’s unexpired term representing South Carolina’s 1st District. Mrs. McMillan did not run for re-election in 1940, but stayed in Washington and served in a variety of offices until her retirement in 1957.

The papers of Edgar L. and Ann B. Morris document their leadership in the growth of the Republican Party in South Carolina during the 1950s and 1960s.

Moxon’s papers document her leadership in the League of Women Voters and her work with other organizations including Advocates for Comprehensive Health Education, American Association of University Women, Common Cause of South Carolina, Equal Rights Amendment South Carolina, South Carolina Advocates for Women on Boards and Commissions, and South Carolina Coalition for Choice.

The John (b. 1921) and Erminie Nave Papers principally relate to their involvement in Republican Party activities in Greenwood County.

Papers document Patterson’s service in the South Carolina Senate (Spartanburg County area), 1979-1986, and the U.S. House of Representatives, 4th District, 1987-1993.  Personal papers reflect her campaigns for office and service outside of public office.

Ann "Tunky" Osteen Yarborough Riley served as South Carolina's First Lady from 1979 until 1987. She was known not only for her gracious hospitality and warmth, but for her work toward improving South Carolina's educational system and her active involvement in the Governor's Mansion renovations.

Simkins, civil rights activist, was a founder of the Victory Savings Bank (VSB) of Columbia in 1921. Now the SC Community Bank, it remains one of the oldest African-American owned banks in the country. The entire collection has been digitized and is available online.

The Coalition’s Papers, covering 1963-1978, reflect efforts to secure ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the federal constitution. The group was co-funded by the League of Women Voters and the National Organization for Women.

Oral Histories

Edens was an important activist in Republican Party affairs at the local, state and national levels since the late 1950s. Her distinguished service includes terms as National Committeewoman. In this interview, she reflects on her life and long association with Republican Party politics. She also comments on the role played in the rise of the Party by her brother, J. Drake Edens, Jr. (1925-1982), who chaired the South Carolina Republican Party from 1963 to 1965.

In this 1993 interview, Hughes reflects on her career as a Senate staff member in the office of Fritz Hollings. She joined his staff in 1969 as a military case worker, later becoming his appointments secretary.

In this 1993 interview, Karen Kollmansperger reflects on her experiences in Washington, D.C., chiefly while working as a Senate staff member in the office of Fritz Hollings. She joined his staff in 1967 after working on several campaigns in Tennessee. Kollmansperger started as a case worker, moved to loans and grants, and eventually became one of the Senator's secretaries.

Closed Collections

Note: SCPC keeps collections closed to the public until their arrangement and description have been completed.

Currently closed for processing, document Hayes’ activities as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in Geneva, Switzerland, and U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO), 1977-2001. Hayes was appointed Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2001.

Consists of drawings, sketches, and papers relating to Palmer’s work as an editorial cartoonist and children’s book author.

Currently closed. Crocker represented Laurens County in the S.C. House from 1978 to 1984, worked as Workers' Compensation Commissioner, 1984-1992, and was named Executive Director of the (S.C.) House Democratic Caucus in 1996. There she worked with then Caucus Leader Jim Hodges, who, as governor, appointed Crocker to his staff as Director of Intergovernmental and Community Relations. Since 2007, she has served the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission as its Judicial Director.

Currently closed. Martschink served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1971 to 1975, and was a junior at the University of South Carolina when elected in November 1970 to represent Lexington County, becoming the nation's youngest lawmaker. In 1986, after serving five years on a local school board, she was elected to the South Carolina Senate from Charleston County in a special election and in 1988 was elected to a full term. Martschink was appointed to the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission in 1992 and served as commissioner until 2004, including one term as vice chair of the commission.

Currently closed, the collection documents Tenenbaum's service as State Superintendent of Education, 1999-2007, as well as her two campaigns for that position in 1998 and 2002. Other campaigns include her 1994 Lt. Governor and 2004 U.S. Senate races.