South Carolina SC History Special Women in SC History
Notable SC Women
This guide will help you discover South Carolina's most notable ladies – past and present! It provides brief biographical info plus website links for nearly 100 SC women – from a 16th-century Native-American queen to a 21st-century corporate tycoon.
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- Kimberly Clarice Aiken - This Columbia native was crowned Miss America in 1994 and used her fame to bring attention to the hardships of homelessness. She is the founder of HERO, the Homeless Education and Resource Organization.
- Marjorie Amos-Frazier - Born in Manning, this long-time public servant and Civil Rights leader was honored in 1993 when a portion of I-26 was named for her.
- Augusta Baker - Coordinator of youth services for all 82 branches of the New York Public Library, she moved to South Carolina in 1980 and became the University of South Carolina's Storyteller-in-Residence. Each year, Columbia holds a storytelling festival in her honor, aptly called A(ugusta) Baker's Dozen.
- Anna DeCosta Banks - This nursing pioneer inspired countless students during her long career at the Hospital and Training School for Nurses in Charleston. Her legacy lives on long after her death in 1930; today, a wing of MUSC bears her name.
- Charlotta Spears Bass - This newspaper publisher used print media to push for social reform. Her tenacity as a Civil Rights leader propelled her into politics, and in 1952 she was the first African-American woman to run for national office – Vice President of the United States.
- Mary McLeod Bethune - Born to former slaves just 10 years after the end of the Civil War, this Sumter County native decided early on that education was the key to ending the cycle of poverty. In 1904, she started a small school for African-American girls which eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. Under Franklin Roosevelt she served as Special Advisor on Minority Affairs, and in 1935 she founded the National Council for Negro Women to "represent the national and international concerns of Black women." Her portrait hangs in South Carolina's State House in Columbia.
- Maxine Brown - Soul singer whose talent was first honed at her childhood church in Kingstree.
- Betsy Byars - This acclaimed children's author writes in her log cabin in Seneca. She won the Newberry Award in 1971 for Summer of Swans, the American Book Award in 1981 for The Night Swimmers, and the Edgar for Best Young Adult Mystery in 1992 for Wanted.
- Maude Callen - Recognized for her dedication as a nurse, midwife, and teacher, Maude Callen was the subject of 12-page photographic profile in Life magazine in 1951 which led to the funding of a clinic in Berkeley County.
- Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut - Daughter of SC Governor Stephen Decatur Miller and wife of US Senator James Chesnut, Jr., her A Diary from Dixie is considered one of the most important and enduring portraits of the Confederacy. As a child she lived at Plane Hill Plantation and as an adult she lived at Mulberry Plantation, both near Camden in Kershaw County.
- Alice Childress - In 1956, this author, actress, and director was the first woman to win an OBIE award. Her children's books include A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Sandwich and Rainbow Jordan. She was born in Charleston.
- Septima Poinsette Clark - Known as the "Queen Mother of the Civil Rights Movement," Septima Clark was a leader in the NAACP, the Highlander School, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Working together with Esau Jenkins and Bernice Robinson, she helped establish Citizenship Schools across the South. These schools taught black people to read so they could vote, a requirement of the time. In all, these schools enabled two million African-Americans to vote. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he asked Mrs. Clark to accompany him to Norway, saying she deserved the award as much as he did.
– Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark - Read more about one of South Carolina's most important heroines.
- Carol Connor - Elected in 1988 to the SC circuit court, Judge Connor was as the first woman to serve as an acting member of the South Carolina Supreme Court.
- Ann Pamela Cunningham - This Laurens County native established the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which raised funds to save George Washington's home and purchased it in 1859. She was born at Rosemont Plantation, and her portrait hangs in the South Carolina State House.
- Beth Daniel - Born in Charleston, this professional golfer is one of only three LPGA players to win "Rookie of the Year" and then "Player of the Year" the very next season.
- Viola Davis - Born at Singleton Plantation in St Matthews, this Tony-award winning actress was nominated for an Oscar in 2009 for her role in the movie Doubt and in 2011 as best actress for The Help.
- Marian Wright Edelman - A native of Bennettsville, Marian Wright Edelman broke barriers in 1964 when she became the first African-American female admitted to the Mississippi Bar. She went on to found the Washington Research Project, which in turn became the Children's Defense Fund. In 2000, she was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. The Marian Wright Edelman Public Library opened its doors in 2010 to serve all residents of Marlboro County.
- Dr. Irene Dillard Elliott - In 1924, she was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina. A short time later she was hired as the first female faculty member of the University of South Carolina. She established the university's chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
- Susannah Smith Elliott - A fervent patriot, Susannah Smith Elliott presented two elegant flags to Colonel Moultrie at what is today known as Fort Moultrie. One flag was red silk and the other was blue, emblazoned with the Latin words meaning "Liberty is more to be desired than Life." The British captured the flags upon the fall of Charleston and delivered them to the Tower of London.
– Hut Plantation - Home of Susannah Smith Elliott
- Mary Gordon Ellis - As Superintendent of Education in rural Jasper County , she sought to improve the education of African-Americans. In 1928, she became the first woman elected to the South Carolina State Senate. In 1995, the General Assembly passed a resolution commissioning her portrait for the Senate Chamber.
- Lillian Ellison - The "Fabulous Moolah" was a pioneer and dominant figure in the development of women's wrestling. She reigned as World Champion longer than any other wrestler in history, man or woman, with titles spanning from 1956 to 1987.
- Dr. Matilda Arabelle Evans - In 1897, Dr. Evans became the first African-American woman licensed as a physician in South Carolina. She opened Columbia's first hospital for African-Americans and fought to provide free medical exams for public schoolchildren. She also had a thriving independent practice where she cared for patients of all classes and color. Six children were abandoned at her practice and she raised them all, along with five children orphaned by relatives who had died.
- Shannon Faulkner - Shannon Faulkner won a 1995 US Supreme Court ruling that declared The Citadel's male-only admissions policy unconstitutional. She became the first woman to join the Corps of Cadets, where hostility and hatred towards her ran rampant. During this time she had to be protected by federal marshals. She left the Corps after just one week, but she opened the doors for all future female cadets, who owe their educations in large part to her groundbreaking effort.
– Life After The Citadel: Shannon Faulkner Reflects on Her Historic Battle with the Elite Military College - ABC News report, includes video
- Susan Pringle Frost - As the first president of Charleston's Equal Suffrage League, Ms. Frost played an active role in pursuing women's rights. But preserving her beloved city soon became her life's mission, and in 1909 she began purchasing and restoring properties in the area known famously today as Rainbow Row. She is criticized in this capacity, however, as her efforts displaced many of Charleston's black citizens.
- Emily Geiger - Emily Geiger was a teenager during the Revolutionary War. Though her father's health prevented him from enlisting, Emily decided to make a contribution to the effort. Learning that General Greene could not find a man to carry a message to General Sumter through the Tory-infested countryside, Emily volunteered for the task. Captured by the British, Emily's quick thinking led to her release – with apologies! To keep her document from being discovered, Emily tore it into small pieces and ate it. Having memorized the message, she went on to deliver it verbally.
– Source documents on Emily Geiger
- Leeza Gibbons - The talents of this Hartsville native encompass many genres of entertainment. Her professional and civic accomplishments have been recognized by both a Congressional Horizon Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has also won three Emmy Awards.
- Althea Gibson - Shattering 1950s racial barriers, this Sumter County native became the first African American to win world-championship tennis tournaments such as Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Championship, and the US National Championship (known today as the US Open).
– Detailed biographical info
– Includes info on tennis record
- Caroline Howard Gilman - Her first poem was published without her permission when she was only 16. In time, Charleston's adopted daughter would go on to write poems, magazine articles, and books, becoming the South's most famous female writer of the late 1900s.
– Recollections of a Southern Matron - memoir written by Caroline Howard Gilman
- Vivian Glover - The Glover family left Orangeburg in 1955 when Vivian's dad received threats as a result of his role in the Civil Rights movement. Though she would travel the world with her career in media, Vivian always felt the tug of home. Her acclaimed book, The First Fig Tree, is set in Orangeburg, where she returned to live in 1992.
- Lucile "Miss Ludy" Ellerbe Godbold - Lucile won six medals for Track & Field at the 1922 World Meet, which was a precursor to today's Olympics. That same year, she broke three American records and set a world record. "Miss Ludy" would become the first women inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame
– More about Lucile Ellerbe Godbold
- Dr. Wil Lou Gray - In 1931, this Laurens County native conducted successful scientific experiments to prove blacks could learn as well as whites. Determined to end illiteracy among South Carolinians, she pioneered adult education programs. She is remembered by her portrait which hangs in the State House, as well as by the school she founded, the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School.
- Sarah Grimkè & Angelina Grimkè Weld - Growing up in a family of wealth and privilege, the Grimkè sisters witnessed firsthand the injustice of slavery. As women, they too experienced social inequity and were denied the power to vote. Vowing to fight for equality for all, the Grimkès moved north and became avid and renowned proponents of emancipation and suffrage.
- Nikki Haley - Born in Bamberg, Nimrata "Nikki" Randhawa Haley's Sikh parents immigrated from India in the 1960s. She first ran for political office in 2004 and was elected to the SC House of Representatives – becoming the first Indian-American to hold office in our state. In 2010, she became the first female governor of South Carolina. In January 2017, Haley resigned as Governor of South Carolina after being confirmed as US Ambassador to the United Nations.
- Caroline Etheredge Hembel - Hailing from Saluda, she was the first female graduate of the Civilian Pilot Training Program at the University of South Carolina and the first woman to receive a pilot's license in the 11 Southeastern states. She was such a skilled pilot that she would go on to train Navy V-5 aviation cadets in 1941, and in 1943 she was selected to serve as one of World War II's famous WASPs (Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots).
- Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Redmond Hipps - This US Army nurse from Swansea served in the Philippines during World War II, an effort for which she was awarded a Purple Heart. Her book entitled I Served on Bataan became the basis for the 1943 movie So Proudly We Hail.
- Janice Huff - Eau Claire High School's "Miss Shamrock 1978" is still shining bright as a meteorologist featured weekdays on NBC's New York City affiliate and also appeared on the weekend edition of the Today show.
- Jane Edna Harris Hunter - Born at Woodburn Plantation just one generation out of slavery, Jane Edna Harris Hunter had a tenuous childhood. From an early age, she moved from one household to another, working to earn her keep. Finally her desire for education was recognized by missionaries, and she was allowed to attend school. She would go on to earn both nursing and law degrees. Longing to help other young girls, she founded the Phillis Wheatley Association in Greenville.
- Charlayne Hunter-Gault - This Due West daughter has made an international mark on the field of journalism. The NAACP's Legal Defense Fund helped her break the color barrier at the University of Georgia in the early 1960s. She graduated with a degree in journalism and immediately became the first African-American reporter for The New Yorker. In 1978 she gained a national television audience as a correspondent on The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. She then moved on to be the chief correspondent in Africa for National Public Radio. Building on this expertise, she next worked in Johannesburg as the Bureau Chief for CNN. Hunter-Gault has received two Emmy Awards for her work on the series "Apartheid's People." She has also earned the New York Times Publisher Award and two Peabody Awards. She is author of the 2006 book entitled New News out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance.
- Anna Vaughan Hyatt Huntington - When Anna's sister introduced her to sculpture at the age of eight, she was hooked! Over the years, Anna fine-tuned her craft and became a world-renowned artist. After marrying, she and her husband searched for a winter home. They found themselves captivated with Georgetown and proceeded to purchase four plantations, one of which became Brookgreen Gardens.
– Atalaya - Anna's home (now part of Huntington Beach State Park)
- Issaqueena - Legend holds that Issaqueena Falls in Oconee County was named for a young Indian maiden who warned settlers of her tribe's plan to attack. Her betrayal angered her tribe and they chased her through the forest to the waterfall. She pretended to jump in the water but instead hid behind the 100-foot cascade until the pursuers gave up their search.
- Mary Jackson - This master craftswoman elevates the utilitarian sweetgrass basket to a high art. Ms. Jackson learned to make baskets at the knees of her mother and grandmother when she was just a child. As an adult, she began to realize that the baskets, made by so many in her Mount Pleasant community, represented a link to her own African ancestry. Her baskets have been exhibited in major museums throughout the country, including the Smithsonian, and in 2008 she was honored with the coveted MacArthur "Genius Grant."
- Mamie "Peanut" Johnson - Born in 1935, this Ridgeway native loved baseball. However, because she was African American, she was not allowed to be part of the sport's women's league. Luckily, a scout for the all-male Negro League saw her throw and quickly signed her to the Indianapolis Clowns, where she pitched three seasons. At one of her early games, an opponent is said to have shouted, "What makes you think you can strike a batter out? Why, you aren't any larger than a peanut!" She struck him out in three pitches and the nickname stuck!
- Etta Jones - Winning a talent show as a teenager set this Aiken native's career in motion! From the early 1940s straight through the 1990s, Etta recorded jazz hits and performed live in nightclubs, partnering with nearly all the Big Band greats. In 1960, her album Don't Go to Strangers went gold. Her last album, Etta Jones Sings Lady Day, was released on October 16, 2001, the day she died.
- Eartha Kitt - Born on an Orangeburg County cotton farm in 1927, Eartha Kitt became a world-famous entertainer with her own star on Hollywood Boulevard. Her 1953 recording of Santa Baby and her recurring role as Catwoman on TV's Batman are familiar examples of her work. While many of her roles epitomized the Hollywood stereotype of "sex kitten," her social consciousness often made it difficult for her to land jobs. Her refusal to perform for segregated audiences effectively relegated her to European venues in the 1940s and 50s. In the 1970s, she was blacklisted by the American entertainment industry when she spoke out against Vietnam at a White House luncheon. But Eartha Kitt's career came back, time and time again. In 1997 she returned to South Carolina to perform a benefit concert at Benedict College, which helped establish a scholarship fund for dance students.
- Andie MacDowell - She played an Englishwoman in her first major movie role, but her lines were dubbed because her Southern drawl could not be concealed. Despite that unpromising start, she has enjoyed a successful acting career with Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in Sex, Lies, and Videotape in 1989, Green Card in 1990, and Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994. Once we were allowed to hear it, many people felt her lovely Gaffney accent only enhanced her talent and beauty
- Anne Matthews - Ms. Matthews has held many leadership positions and was twice appointed to national posts by President Ronald Reagan. In 2013, the Lake City native was elected vice president of Rotary International, the first woman to serve in this position.
- Cassandra Maxwell - In 1940 she became the first African-American woman admitted to the SC Bar. Ten years later, working in Atlanta and active in the NAACP, she assisted Thurgood Marshall on cases which ultimately overturned the legality of segregated public facilities in the South.
- Frieda Mitchell - In the 1970s, she championed innovations in childcare for poor working families. She became the first Executive Director of United Communities for Child Development, which worked to promote community-controlled childcare centers. The UCCD model was replicated in other Southern states and Ms. Mitchell became sought after as a consultant at both national and international levels. She is the recipient of the John D. Rockefeller, III, Public Service Award as well as the Marian Wright Edelman Award for Service to Children.
- Darla Moore - In 1997, when Fortune magazine made her the first woman ever featured on a cover, they called her the "Toughest Babe in Business." A native of Lake City and a graduate of the University of South Carolina, Mrs. Moore focuses a great deal of her considerable acumen on increasing South Carolina's economic vitality. She is the founder and chair of the Palmetto Institute, a nonprofit think-tank and policy center which aims to raise the per capita income for every person in the state. She served on the Board for the University of South Carolina, where the business school is named in her honor.
- Pearl Moore - Set the women's basketball point record while at Francis Marion University and is third on college basketball's career scoring list with 4,061 points.
- Rebecca Brewton Motte - During the Revolutionary War, British soldiers occupied Mount Joseph Plantation, Rebecca's home, turning it into a fort. Rebecca's husband had recently died, and she and her children were relegated to an outbuilding. Legend has it that when General Francis Marion decided he needed to burn down the house in order to roust the Tories, Rebecca not only consented, she handed him a burning arrow to shoot at her own roof! Luckily, the British surrendered before the flames spread too far. Soldiers from both camps worked side-by-side to save Mrs. Motte's home, and in gratitude she served a huge feast for Patriots and Loyalists alike. Today, her property is known as the Fort Motte Battle Site.
- Mary C. Simms Oliphant - This historian literally "wrote the book" on the history of South Carolina! Just prior to marriage, Miss Simms undertook the task of updating History of South Carolina, first written by her grandfather, William Gilmore Simms, in 1840. Her revised text was adopted by the South Carolina Board of Education in 1917 and employeed by schools throughout the state until 1932. That year, she printed her own, completely new textbook entitled The Simms History. This guide was used by SC students for over 50 years, until 1985. In 1982, Mary Simms Oliphant was the first woman to receive the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest civilian award.
- Peggy Parish - This native of Manning wrote a wide range of children's books but she is best remembered for the Amelia Bedelia series that debuted in 1963.
– More about Peggy Parish including list of Amelia Bedelia titles
- Mary-Louise Parker - Born at Fort Jackson, Mary Louise Parker's acting career in films, theater, and TV has blossomed since the late 1980s. Her work includes roles in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes and the TV shows West Wing and Weeds. In 2001, Parker won a Tony Award for her work in the Broadway production of Proof, and in 2004 she took home an Emmy for her role in the HBO production of Angels in America.
- Julia Peterkin - In 1929, her novel Scarlet Sister Mary won the Pulitzer Prize for literature. She is remembered for her non-stereotypical depictions of black people, whom she treated with a wholeness and humanity unknown to white writers of the time. This honest outlook earned her the disdain and rebuke of her social class, which ostracized her from its ranks.
– Langs Syne - Julia Peterkin's plantation
- Eliza Lucas Pinckney - As a planter, she was responsible for the success of indigo as a cash crop in Colonial South Carolina. As a businesswoman, she was savvy enough to realize the growing textile industry was a ripe market for new dyes. Working on her farm near Charleston, she methodically experimented and developed improved strains of indigo. In 1745, only 5,000 pounds of indigo were exported from the Charleston area. Within two years, Eliza's efforts increased that volume to 130,000 pounds.
- The Pollitzer Sisters - Anita, Carrie, and Mable Pollitzer were suffragettes who grew up at 5 Pitt Street in downtown Charleston. They worked individually and together in support of a wide range of women's issues.
– Carrie Pollitzer - The eldest of the three sisters, Carrie was active in the National Women's Party and also effected change at the local level through her participation in the Charleston Federation of Women's Clubs. She was a strong advocate for allowing women to be admitted to the College of Charleston. (Learn more about Carrie Pollitzer by scrolling to the third paragraph on this page.)
– Mabel Pollitzer - Mabel was a teacher, civic leader, and women's rights activist. She served as the Chair of the South Carolina chapter of the National Women's Party.
– Anita Pollitzer - Like her sisters, Anita worked tirelessly toward the passing of the 19th Amendment. She was active in the National Women's Party for many years and served as the Chair between 1945 and 1949. An interesting detail of her personal life is that she was friends with Georgia O'Keeffe and is said to have introduced O'Keeffe to her future husband, photography pioneer Alfred Stieglitz.
- Elizabeth Allston Pringle - As a young widow in the 1870s, Elizabeth Pringle managed the farm she once shared with her husband as well as the Georgetown County farm where she grew up. To generate additional income, she sold a weekly column describing life to the New York Sun. Readers were particularly interested in her stories about the daily lives of African-American workers. In 1914, her collected columns were published as A Woman Rice Planter. A second volume, Chronicles of Chicora Wood, was published in 1921 and related her memories of childhood, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.
– Chicora Wood Plantation - Elizabeth Allston Pringle's plantation
– White House Plantation - Elizabeth Allston Pringle's plantation
- Queen of the Cofitachiqui - The Cofitachiqui ("ko-fit-a-cheeky") were considered one of the most highly civilized tribes of their time. This reputation prompted de Soto to locate the tribe. He kidnapped their leader and demanded that she take him to places of great wealth. After several days, the Queen of the Cofitachiqui escaped, accompanied by several of de Soto's men.
– de Soto's 1540 encounter with Queen of the Cofitachiqui
- Bernice Robinson - This Civil Rights activist, along with Esau Jenkins and Septima Clark, established Citizenship Schools to teach black people how to read the Constitution so they could register to vote, a requirement of the time. Together, they are credited with helping two million previously disenfranchised citizens gain the right to vote, making this one of the most important literacy programs of all time.
- Dori Sanders - Raised on a peach farm near Rock Hill, acclaimed author Dori Sanders writes about what she knows best – farm life and family ties. Her first novel, Clover, published in 1990, became both a best seller and a literary award winner. Ms. Sanders still works on her family's farm, writing and speaking at schools and libraries during the off-season.
- Martha Schofield - Moving south from Pennsylvania in the 1860s, she helped freed slaves re-establish their lives after emancipation. In 1868, using her own money, she bought property in Aiken and started a school teaching academics and trades to boys and girls. What started as the Schofield Normal and Industrial School has seen continued use in various forms and remains part of Aiken's public school system to this day.
- Hilla Sheriff - The 1930s and 40s were bleak years for rural South Carolina, especially in the mill towns of the Upstate, where each year people died by the thousands from malnourishment and the lack of basic medical care. During her long career, this Spartanburg physician fought valiantly against everything from pellagra to child abuse. Our state led the nation in maternal and infant mortality, and perhaps her most important accomplishment was to establish America's first family planning clinic for a county health department. She was also our state's first female health officer at a time when there were only 40 female doctors in all of South Carolina.
– More on Hilla Sherrif - In-depth article by American Journal of Public Health examines Dr. Sherriff's profound importance
- Modjeska Monteith Simkins - Born in Columbia in 1899, Ms. Simkins was a school teacher who was active in the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP. Her experience in the classroom helped attorneys shape a critical lawsuit against Clarendon County. The case became one of a group of similar suits from around the South that led to the US Supreme Court's 1954 decision that separate schools were not equal and thus violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
- Marva Smalls - This South Carolina native serves as the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Chief of Staff for Nickelodeon.
- Alice Ravenel Huger Smith - This renowned artist was an influential leader of Charleston's thriving art community during what has come to be known as the Charleston Renaissance. In rural landscapes and city scenes, the work of Smith and her contemporaries, notably Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, conveyed a distinctive sense of place which endures as iconic of South Carolina's Lowcountry.
- The Hon. Ferdinan B. Nancy Stevenson - Ms. Stevenson was first elected to the state legislature as a representative from Charleston in 1975. In 1979 she won her election to become South Carolina's first, and to date only, female Lieutenant Governor. While in office, she established a telephone hotline for citizens to more easily access information about services provided by state government.
- Jane Black Thomas - Defying expectations of women in the Revolutionary War era, stories of Jane Thomas reveal her as a fearless foe and first-class friend to the Patriot cause. While her husband fought elsewhere, Jane was left "tending the home fires" of their Spartanburg County farm. Tory troops arrived to capture a supply of ammunition stored on the Thomas property. As soldiers approached the house, Jane and her young children formed a production line and fed bullets as fast as they could to her brother-in-law, Josiah Culbertson. Culbertson fired from one window of the cabin then moved to another so rapidly the Tories thought they were up against a large Patriot guard. Finally, Jane burst out of the cabin, sword in hand, and dared the Tories to advance further. Intimidated, they retreated and the ammunition was saved for America. This remarkable tale of bravery is recorded on the tombstone of one of Jane's daughters in a Union County cemetery.
- Elizabeth Ann Timothy - As editor and publisher of the South Carolina Gazette, she was America's first female newspaper owner, editor, and publisher. Her husband Lewis began the paper with financial backing from Benjamin Franklin but died in 1738. To continue publication and fulfill their contact with Franklin, the couple's 13 year-old son Peter was named publisher on the Gazette's masthead; however it was Elizabeth who edited and published the paper for the next eight years. At the time, the printing process was extremely labor intensive and printed materials were highly prized. When 21-year-old Peter took over the paper in 1746, Elizabeth opened a bookstore and continued to provide books and pamphlets to the colonists of Charles Towne.
- Laura Towne - In 1862, this dedicated abolitionist moved from Pennsylvania to St. Helena Island, near Beaufort. Here, after an early and resounding Union defeat, white owners had abandoned 10,000 former slaves. Ms. Towne was one of many northern educators and missionaries who moved south to help these emancipated men and women build new lives. She was unique in that she stayed, making St. Helena her lifelong home. She opened Penn School, known today as Penn Center, where students learned reading and writing along with marketable skills like basket-making, cobbling, and carpentry.
- Major General (Retired) Irene Trowell-Harris - Her mother hoped she would become a nurse, but this Aiken native dreamt of flying. She made both of their wishes come true during her 30-year nursing career in the Air National Guard. Even better, she became the National Guard's first African-American woman to achieve the rank of General!
- Justine "Baby" Washington - Born in Bamberg, she established herself as a major soul singer with Dusty Springfield once declaring her as her all-time favorite singer.
- Marjory Wentworth - She has been South Carolina's Poet Laureate since 2003.
- Frances Rollin Whipper - In 1868, her biography of Martin R. Delany was published under the pen name Frank A. Rollin, making her the first African American to publish a full-length biography. Her diary from the same year survives as the earliest known diary by a southern black woman.
- SC Representative Lucille Simmons Whipper - A formidable Civil Rights pioneer, Lucille Whipper was elected to various state and local offices. She also spearheaded the founding of the Avery Institute at the College of Charleston, a nationally-recognized repository of African-American history. In Charleston, a stretch of US 17 is named in her honor.
- Elizabeth White - In 1939, this Sumter artist presented a solo show at the Smithsonian Division of Graphic Arts. Perhaps her most famous work, All God's Chillun' Got Wings!, was chosen for display at the New York World's Fair Exposition of Contemporary Art that same year.
– Samples of White's work on display at the Sumter County Gallery of Art, plus biographical info
- Vanna White - America's most iconic game show hostess has flipped the letters on Wheel of Fortune since 1982. She grew up in North Myrtle Beach.
– VannaStyle.com - Advice, screen savers, dress-up games, and more for fans of this Grand Strand Girl!
- Hannah English Williams - An early South Carolina naturalist, Hannah Williams explored the marshlands surrounding her home on the Ashley River in the late 1600s. The samples of plants, animals, and butterflies she sent back to England were added to the official catalog of natural resources in the New World.
- Juanita Willmon-Goggins - In 1974 Juanita Goggins became the first African-American woman elected to the SC House of Representatives. Other significant "firsts" include being the first African-American woman to serve on the US Civil Rights Commission and the first African-American female member of South Carolina's delegation to the Democratic National Convention. Mrs. Goggins suffered from mental illness later in her life and froze to death in her home in 2010.
- Sylvia Woods - This Hemingway native opened Sylvia's Restaurant in 1962 in historic Harlem and has been described by the New York Times as the "Queen of Soul Food." What began as a lunch counter has become a major destination restaurant, a catering business, a national line of canned food products, and two cookbooks.
- Elizabeth Evelyn Wright - Modeled on the Tuskegee Institute, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright founded Voorhees Normal and Industrial School in the Bamberg County town of Denmark in 1897. Voorhees College has evolved into a 4-year liberal arts college affiliated with the Episcopal Church.