Academic journal article South Carolina Historical Magazine

South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times-Volume 1

Academic journal article South Carolina Historical Magazine

South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times-Volume 1

Article excerpt

South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times - Volume 1. Edited by Marjorie Julian Spruill, Valinda W. Littlefield, and Joan Marie Johnson. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009. Pp. xv, 316; $69.95, cloth.)

This anthology chronicling South Carolina women is a refreshing change from ordinary biographical treatments. Authors routinely choose to write about those women who represent notable anomalies in the historical record . In South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times - Volume 1, editors Marjorie Julian Spruill, Valinda W. Littlefield, and Joan Marie Johnson gather scholarship that treats a representative cross-section of women from the precolonial period through the Civil War, including native liaisons, nobles, preachers, a nun, plantation mistresses, slaves, overseers' wives, nonslaveholding women, business owners, women experiencing war, free African American women, abolitionists, and white women affected by slavery's end. Each of the essays illuminates the ways in which gender shaped women's personal lives and professional activities. A fundamental conclusionhighlighted throughout the volume is that when gender interacted with other identity categories, it created diverse historical experiences for women in South Carolina. As evidenced in several of these essays, gender was not always central in the ways that previous feminist scholars have assumed.

The chapters are arranged in roughly chronological order based on the subject, beginning with Christina Snyder's discussion of the Lady of Cofitachequi. In the case of this Mississippian chief, gender was secondary to tribal status in determiningpolitical power. Bertrand Van Ruymbeke writes on Huguenot noblewoman Judith Giton's journey from France to the Carolina low country. Giton's life reminds us that European immigrants crossing the Atlantic to colonial America hailed from places other than England and came from wealthier classes. Randy J. Sparks's essay concerns two female Quaker preachers, Mary Fisher and Sophia Hume. Sparks demonstrates how Quakerism allowed these women to break free from traditional gender roles, follow their religious callings, and pursue equality for themselves and others. Through the examples of Mary- Anne Schad and a Mrs. Brown, Laura Rose Sandy offers a rare glimpse of lower-class white women on the colonial plantations, where their efforts were crucial to the success of the enterprises. They performed domestic duties; acted as nurses, midwives, and seamstresses; and consulted with their husbands on issues concerning management of slaves.

Moving into the era of the Revolutionary War and early Republic, Constance B. Schulz challenges longstanding historical conclusions about women as "deputy husbands," "kin specialists," and "republican mothers" by examining how Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry, a mother and daughter from a family of Founding Fathers, "transcended the 'separate spheres' to which their gender might have confined them" both at home and in business (pp. 82-83, 105). Another noteworthy woman from this period was Rebecca Brewton Motte, whose little known act of patriotism during the American Revolution is chronicled by Alexia Jones Helsley . When her mansion became a battlefield between British and American forces, to give her side the advantage, Motte allowed the patriots to burn her home, even shooting the first flaming arrow herself. Helsley demands that scholars search for similar instances where women engaged in war while still maintaining their households and plantations.

The contributions by Emily West, Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, and Charles Wilbanks examine nineteenth-century women's responses to the institution of slavery. West details the lives of enslaved women Dolly, Lavinia, Maria, and Susan. She sheds light on how age, marital status, motherhood or lack thereof, forced separations, failed and successful acts of resistance, physical and domestic violence, and interracial relationships led to unique challenges and opportunities for urban and rural female slaves. …

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