The Daily Gamecock

City of Columbia hosts virtual celebration of women's suffrage

Historic Columbia and the Women's Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) teamed up Wednesday to honor the achievements of women in Columbia and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. 

She Did Day, which is through the Columbia City of Women initiative, is an annual event that honors the progress of women in America as well as women who have made notable contributions to the city of Columbia. The event honored eight women total, including poet and USC professor Nikky Finney and Henrie Monteith Treadwell, one of the first Black students to integrate USC in 1963.

Because of the coronavirus, the event was broadcast via livestream on Facebook this year. Executive Director of Historic Columbia Robin Waites said Historic Columbia and WREN launched the Columbia City of Women initiative "to acknowledge and celebrate local women." 

"The initiative aims to connect residents to the rich legacies of our all to often under-sung women's leaders," Waites said. "To underscore the importance of this day in our community the city of Columbia adopted a resolution making August 26th She Did Day."

Laura Woliver, the vice president of the League of Women Voters in Columbia, said that Women's Equality Day, which is also on Aug. 26, was not originally a day of equality for all women.

"Nationally, many suffrage leaders and league founders were inclusive and did not discriminate, but not all women's vote activists felt or acted this way, especially in the southeastern region of the United States," Woliver said. "The League of Women Voters owns and acknowledges this history and works to heal divisions among people which our past practices helped sustain." 

Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine said the Columbia City of Women project is very special to her.

"It recognizes amazing women, but it recognizes the strength of the city of Columbia and the women that have made Columbia what it is, but that are often sometimes not represented," Devine said.

Devine also echoed Woliver's statement about early suffrage movements not being inclusive to all women.

"On the day of the suffragist marches – although women won the right to vote – not all women were able to vote," Devine said. "So when we recognize that day, I think we need to commemorate that it wasn't the end but it was the beginning, the beginning of moving forward to a more equitable society to make sure all voices are heard." 

Ce Scott-Fitts, the program director of artist services at the South Carolina Arts Commission, said that there is a new initiative to have a statue placed across the street from the State House.

"Of the more than 6,000 pieces of public art representing historical figures in the United States, only 600 portray women, a mere 10% of all statues. In Columbia that percentage is smaller," said Fitts. "The Steering Committee commissioned a monument that will be located here – at one of the most traveled and significant corners in South Carolina's capital city."

There were also eight women this year who were recognized as Columbia City of Women honorees.

The eight women are: suffragist Ida Salley Reamer, educator and community leader Ethel Martin Bolden, human rights activist Donella Brown Wilson, social justice advocate Henrie Monteith Treadwell, women's rights activist Victoria L. Eslinger, human rights activist Edna Smith Primus, community health activist Suzan D. Boyd, and poet and activist Nikky Finney.


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