The City Magazine Since 1975

Sister Suffragists

Sister Suffragists
February 2020




When the Pollitzer sisters—the eldest Carrie (right), Mabel (center), and the youngest Anita (left)—gathered to take this photo in the 1910s, more states were slowly granting women suffrage, and these Charleston natives were doing their part to make the right to vote Federal law. They worked for the National Woman’s Party, which championed equality among men and women. Carrie often handed out suffrage literature at the corner of King and Broad streets and was instrumental in making the College of Charleston co-ed in 1917. She pushed the college’s then president, Dr. Harrison Randolph, to admit women to the school by collecting more than $1,500 (roughly $25,000 today) for women’s facilities. Mabel also believed that education was the most important factor in progressing women’s rights and, as a teacher at Memminger for more than 40 years, created the first biology curriculum for girls in South Carolina. She also helped found the Charleston County Public Library. Youngest sister, Anita, befriended Georgia O’Keefe while they studied at Columbia University in New York (and even helped launch the painter’s career by showing her artwork to photographer Alfred Stieglitz); the two marched together in New York’s Fifth Avenue suffrage parade of 1915. After Congress passed the 19th Amendment in 1919, it still required ratification by 36 states. Senator Harry Burn had been a steadfast holdout, but Anita convinced him to change his mind, making Tennessee the final state needed for enactment. While the fight for equality continues, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Pollitzers, especially now during Women’s History Month, and this year, which marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s ratification.

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