The Suffrage Movement in South Carolina

If history teaches a lesson to South Carolina women today, it is that working together and supporting each other is the only way to get things done the right way.

And that every vote counts. We all must exercise our long denied right to vote so our voices are heard in every election.

In the cause for women’s enfranchisement, South Carolina was a reluctant state.

During the suffrage movement, crusaders for the cause saw their efforts come to naught. They were able to win no concessions from South Carolina’s state legislature. SC suffragettes did finally gain the vote but only through a federal amendment- The 19th Amendment- when the state of Tennessee voted in favor, providing 36 states necessary for ratification. That was 1920- 100 years ago! Not until almost fifty years later, in 1969, did South Carolina “legitimatize” her women voters.

For South Carolina’s African Americans, state constitutional loopholes kept them from being able to exercise their right to vote. Southern politicians in that era held firm in their convictions not to allow African American women to vote. They used a variety of techniques to do so: voter suppression at the polls, poll taxes, threats of violence and legalized prejudicial practices.

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The Suffrage Movement in South Carolina

In the cause for women’s enfranchisement, South Carolina was a reluctant state. 

During the suffrage movement, crusaders for the cause saw their efforts come to naught. They were able to win no concessions from South Carolina’s state legislature. SC suffragettes did finally gain the vote but only through a federal amendment- The 19th Amendment- when the state of Tennessee voted in favor, providing 36 states necessary for ratification. That was 1920- 100 years ago! Not until almost fifty years later, in 1969, did South Carolina “legitimatize” her women voters. 

For South Carolina’s African Americans, state constitutional loopholes kept them from being able to exercise their right to vote. Southern politicians in that era held firm in their convictions not to allow African American women to vote. They used a variety of techniques to do so:  voter suppression at the polls, poll taxes, threats of violence and legalized prejudicial practices.

If history teaches a lesson to South Carolina women today, it is that working together and supporting each other is the only way to get things done the right way. And that every vote counts. We all must exercise our long denied right to vote so our voices are heard in every election.

Today, the physical exhibition is limited to 100 people/day for in-person visitation. 

Date of Exhibition:
Open now at SC State Museum and through at least September, 2020.
See more online.

Time of Exhibition:
Tues. – Fri: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sun: 12 – 5 p.m.
Masks required. 

Location of Exhibition: 
SC State Museum
301 Gervais Street
Columbia, SC 29201

Capacity:  Special rules for visiting the Museum during the pandemic: http://scmuseum.org/visit/

Special thanks to Betsy Breckinridge, former TV talk show host and volunteer videographer who also helped write all the summaries of our vignettes. And to Joann Zeise, cultural history curator extraordinaire of the A Voice of Her Own: South Carolina Women in Politics exhibit for the SC State Museum and woman who delivers much wisdom through her understanding of history.