Opening image for the exhibition "A Woman's Right" part 2

September 11, 1963. Henrie Monteith and Robert G. Anderson register as students in the Administration Building at the University of South Carolina. They are two of the first three African-American students at the University since Reconstruction.

Copyright © The State Media Company. All rights reserved. For more information, contact the Walker Local and Family History Center at Richland Library, Columbia, S.C. 29201.

Introduction

The history of women at the University of South Carolina is a complicated story filled with trials and triumphs that make a simple narrative impossible. This two-part exhibition shows how women on campus fought for basic rights and, once those were achieved, strove for equality in the classroom, on the athletic field, and in the workplace.

The first part, on exhibition from January 11 to March 15, 2020, at the McKissick Museum, covered the creation of South Carolina College (1801) to the end of World War II (1945). During this period, women fought for, among other things, the right to enroll as students and the right to vote.

A free PDF of the contents of the first part of the exhibition is available for download.

The second part explores 1945 to the present. Women worked to create a university environment that met their needs. On campus, they vigorously campaigned for admission into majors typically considered “male,” equality in housing and athletics, and increased respect for their intelligence and capabilities. Today, women bring an incredible diversity of interests, activities, and achievements to UofSC. The exhibition celebrates the women of UofSC’s past, present, and future.

Timeline

Timeline

1945-Present

 

    • 1955 —For the first time, a UofSC building is named for a female: McClintock Residence Hall for Euphemia McClintock.
    • 1963 —The Equal Pay Act is passed, outlawing gender-based wage discrimination.
    • 1965 —Henrie Monteith, the first African-American female to register at UofSC, becomes the first African-American graduate.
    • 1972 —Title IX becomes law.
      Gail Ransome becomes UofSC’s first African-American homecoming queen.
    • 1973 —The first Women’s Studies course is offered.
      The first female student body president, Rita McKinney, is elected.
      Delta Sigma Theta is chartered as UofSC’s first African-American sorority.
    • 1981 onward —The majority of UofSC’s student population is female.
    • 1998 —UofSC becomes the first major university to name its business school after a woman, dedicating the Darla Moore School of Business in honor of the 1975 graduate.
    • 2002 —The women’s track and field team, coached by Curtis Frye, wins the NCAA National Championship.
    • 2017 —The women’s basketball team, coached by Dawn Staley, wins the NCAA National Championship.
    • 2019 —Cheslie Kryst, a 2013 Darla Moore School of Business graduate, is crowned Miss USA.
      For the first time, black women simultaneously hold the major pageant titles of Miss Teen USA, Miss USA, Miss America, Miss World, and Miss Universe.
  • 2020 —The NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament is cancelled due to COVID-19. Even though Dawn Staley’s team did not get to play for a national championship title, the USA Today Women’s Basketball Coaches Poll ranks the University of South Carolina as the #1 team in the nation.
Image of a white nurse's cap from the 1940s.

Nursing

 

Due to the increased demand for qualified nurses during World War II, in 1942 the University of South Carolina began offering coursework in nursing, as one of the university’s first initiatives geared toward women. It also offered the first Red Cross Nurses’ Aide Course in the United States. Of the initial 26 women enrolled, 19 completed the program.

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Image of a white nurse's cap from the 1940s.

Co-Ed Expectations

 

Until the 1970s, UofSC had strict gender expectations for female students, but co-eds regularly and consistently pushed back.

The Carolina Co-ed Code, a booklet given to all female students, detailed dos and don’ts, including a curfew. If co-eds were not in their dorms on time, dorm mothers could, at their discretion, dole out further restrictions.

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Long Integration

 

Although African-American men attended the University of South Carolina briefly during Reconstruction (1863-1877), non-white students were otherwise not allowed until the middle of the twentieth century. In 1952, “Lily” Wen-pei Li from Taiwan became the first Asian woman to attend UofSC.

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Title IX

 

Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act bans discrimination based on sex in schools receiving federal funding. However, UofSC’s provision of equal opportunities in athletics stalled. A Daily Gamecock article detailed the “appalling” situation of females’ “second-class citizenship in all areas except the kitchen and diaper pails.”

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Women and Gender Studies

 

For generations, UofSC courses chronicled white men’s achievements. However, the movements for equal and civil rights generated a national campaign for more inclusive course offerings. As a result, UofSC introduced an Afro-American interdepartmental major in 1971.

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The Equal Rights Amendment

 

After the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, prominent suffragist Alice Paul proposed what would become known as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA): “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”

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Opening image for the exhibition "A Woman's Right" part 2

Women’s Athletics

 

The University of South Carolina is a Division I member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and a member of the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference, which it joined in 1990. Prior to that time, UofSC was a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference from 1953 to 1971 and the Metro Conference from 1983 to 1990.

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Opening image for the exhibition "A Woman's Right" part 2

Extracurricular Activities

 

Through the 1980s, women regularly participated in beauty pageants on campus, most notably the annual May Queen competition. However, not everyone supported pageantry. A female student group calling themselves the Grimké Sisters Union protested a 1970 pageant held at the basketball coliseum for “exploitation of the human body.” To quiet the group, security guards threatened arrest for littering and being a public nuisance.

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L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+

 

During the 1970s, students began to express their sexuality and gender identities more publicly, sometimes with the university’s support and sometimes without. In 1973, The Gamecock published a student’s account of temporarily dropping out of school to transition from male to female.

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Student Body Today

 

In the 21st century, women are an essential part of UofSC. Female-centered organizations focused on the arts, sports, service, advocacy, and professional development are vital to the collegiate community and are expanding to include ever-greater numbers. Moreover, the Women in Leadership housing community empowers “female students interested in developing their leadership skills to pursue leadership positions.”

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Acknowledgements

This exhibition would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the following individuals. The staff of the McKissick Museum would like to thank:

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Timeline

1945-Present

 

    • 1955 —For the first time, a UofSC building is named for a female: McClintock Residence Hall for Euphemia McClintock.
    • 1963 —The Equal Pay Act is passed, outlawing gender-based wage discrimination.
    • 1965 —Henrie Monteith, the first African-American female to register at UofSC, becomes the first African-American graduate.
    • 1972 —Title IX becomes law.
      Gail Ransome becomes UofSC’s first African-American homecoming queen.
    • 1973 —The first Women’s Studies course is offered.
      The first female student body president, Rita McKinney, is elected.
      Delta Sigma Theta is chartered as UofSC’s first African-American sorority.
    • 1981 onward —The majority of UofSC’s student population is female.
    • 1998 —UofSC becomes the first major university to name its business school after a woman, dedicating the Darla Moore School of Business in honor of the 1975 graduate.
    • 2002 —The women’s track and field team, coached by Curtis Frye, wins the NCAA National Championship.
    • 2017 —The women’s basketball team, coached by Dawn Staley, wins the NCAA National Championship.
    • 2019 —Cheslie Kryst, a 2013 Darla Moore School of Business graduate, is crowned Miss USA.
      For the first time, black women simultaneously hold the major pageant titles of Miss Teen USA, Miss USA, Miss America, Miss World, and Miss Universe.
  • 2020 —The NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament is cancelled due to COVID-19. Even though Dawn Staley’s team did not get to play for a national championship title, the USA Today Women’s Basketball Coaches Poll ranks the University of South Carolina as the #1 team in the nation.