This school year marks 100 years since the College opened its doors to women. To commemorate its acceptance of its first 13 female students, the College is spearheading 2018-2019 as the “Year of Women” by hosting events celebrating women on campus. An exhibit detailing the the century long history of women’s lasting influence on the College of Charleston is on display in Towell Library.
The exhibit begins with the original 13 – the first women that entered a College of Charleston class on Sep. 30 1918. Only one woman graduated: Pierre St. Claire Smith Byrd ’22. Byrd was involved on campus as president of the Co-Ed club, captain of the women’s basketball team, secretary of the Athletic Association, co-ed representative of the Honor Committee, Student Council representative and Editor-in-Chief of the College’s yearbook, “The Comet.” She graduated top of her class with honors and received a Doctor of Letters Honorary Degree from the College in 1977. Byrd was also the first woman to receive a College of Charleston class ring. The Alumni Association used the design to declare the official College of Charleston ring used today.
Aside from the original 13, the exhibit details several successful women in medicine, education, law and business. A few displays include Dr. Hilla Sheriff ‘24 and Mary Stewart Allan ’28, the first American woman to earn a master’s degree in public health from Harvard and the first woman admitted to the South Carolina Bar respectively.
The exhibit includes women who participated in athletics, won nationally competitive awards and others who supported the alumni association. The exhibit also commemorates Rheta Frierson Anderson ’38 wrote the alma mater, and Eugenia Balzano Fritz ‘48, a former political analyst for the National Security Agency.
The last section of the exhibit features Carrie Nesbitt Gibbs, Angela Brown Gilchrist, Linda Dingle Gadson and Audrey Dingle Cooper, the first four black women admitted to the College in 1967. Gibbs and Gilchrist entered first, closely followed by Gadson and Cooper. All four graduated together in 1972. Their pictures and testimonies hang on the wall above their section. The exhibition will be on the second floor of Towell Library until Feb. 2019.