HISTORY OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S COUNCIL
During the 1996 election, several female professors from the University of South Carolina worked for some of the Richland County state house candidates – young men who were running for the state house for the first time and one woman, Joyce Dickerson. Dr. Laura Woliver and Dr. Lala Steelman met with Kathy Hensley, who was a full time volunteer at the state party, and convinced her to start a women’s organization to find and train women to run for office.
Kathy contacted some of the women county chairs and the former presidents of the Charleston and Greenville Democratic Women’s Clubs: Flo Rosse – Beaufort County Chair, Sally Howard – Horry County Chair, Mignon Clyburn – Charleston DWC, and Joanne Montague – Greenville DWC. The Greenville County Club was organized in 1967 and Joanne provided a wealth of information. We found that the South Carolina Democratic Women’s Council was established in the early 1960’s and was instrumental in helping raise the awareness of the need for women candidates across the state. It was in 1978 that Nancy Stevenson became Lieutenant Governor, the first woman to serve in a statewide elected position and a number of women were elected for the first time to the SC House of Representatives and Senate. The Democratic Women’s Council stayed active until the late 1980’s when it was difficult to fill some of the leadership positions. The Charleston and Greenville groups remained active in their counties, but the state-wide group had fallen by the wayside.
It was decided to see if we could get a develop interest from around the state by periodically meeting in Columbia to establish an organization to recruit and train Democratic women for elective office. This Steering Group consisting of Cindy Floyd, Mignon Clyburn, Joanne Montague, Lala Steelman, Laura Woliver, Betty Glad, Joyce Dickerson, Margaret Feagin, Audrey Snead, among others, started meeting at Dr. Betty Glad’s home in Columbia.
After a few meetings, the decision was made to re-activate the South Carolina Democratic Women’s Council. The following officers were elected in 1997: Kathy Hensley, President; / Joyce Dickerson, President-elect; 1st Vice President, Bebe Bailey; 2nd Vice President, Cindy Smalls; 3rd Vice President, Kaye Lingle Koonce; Secretary, Gloria Jordan; Treasurer, Louisiana Wright; Assistant Treasurer, Beth DeBacker; and Parliamentarian, Joanne Montague. The Steering Committee was finalized with the following members: Margot Anderson, Patty Byrant, Hilda Merritt Carter, Bea Catalano, Gilda Cobb Hunter, Elise Curtis, Donna DeWitt, Marcia Duffy, Maxie Duke, Maryann C. D. Epstein, Patricia Evans, Betty Fant, Cindy Floyd, Betty Glad, Sara Hudson, Carol Khare, Anne Osborne Kilpatrick, Elaine Marks, Jackie McConnell, Ammie Evins Murray, Liz Patterson, Joan Peters, Audrey Snead, Hazel Parsons Starkes, Lala Steelman, and Juanita White.
The Steering Committee developed a set of objectives for the re-activated Democratic Women’s Council-
- Support the principles and platform of the Democratic Party
- Identify and help prepare Democratic women to run for public office
- Encourage and mentor young women as future leaders within the Democratic Party
- Work for the election of Democratic Party candidates at all levels of government
- Initiate, carry out, and support programs and projects on behalf of the Democratic Party and its candidates
- Cooperate with the County Democratic Women’s Clubs as deemed mutually beneficial
- Encourage and supportthe continued participation by women in the South Carolina Democratic Party’s planning and decision making at all levels
On August 26, 1997, Kathy signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Jason Linde, Executive Director, of the state party for support and assistance from the party to the DWC. This agreement included accounting assistance, office space, use of the party’s data base, and assistance in fundraising. A brochure was developed and a newsletter started. Membership reached almost 200 paid members. Two statewide meetings each year were scheduled to provide training sessions for women who wanted to explore the requirements of becoming a candidate as well as new campaign techniques for campaign workers.
When Kathy became the Interim Executive Director of the State Party in March, 1999, Joyce Dickerson stepped in to complete Kathy’s term and served as president until 2001. Later at the State Convention breakfast, she was joined by the following new officers: Margaret Feagin, President-elect; Flo Rosse, 1st Vice President; Carol Khare, 2nd Vice President; Chrissy Stauffer, 3rd Vice President; Sally Howard, Secretary; Louisiana Wright, Treasurer; Beth DeBacker, Assistant Treasurer; Faith River, Parliamentarian; and Kathy Hensley, Past President. The Steering Committee consisted of: Dick Harpootlian, State Party Chairman; Gilda Cobb Hunter, DNC Executive Committeewoman; Kathy Hensley, Interim Director, SCDP; Joyce Dickerson, Margaret Feagin, Flo Rosse, Carol Khare, Chrissy Stauffer, M. K. Smith, Christine Jennings, and Flora Condon.
During her term in office Joyce was very involved in promoting the council’s having a Vice- President in each of our six Congressional Districts enabling better contact with local women’s groups.
During the next few years, several county Democratic Women’s Council were started: Berkeley County with Helene Gourdine presiding, Tri-County (Orangeburg, Bamburg, and Calhoun Counties), Sumter County with Sally Helf as temporary Chair, Aiken County, Georgetown County, Horry County, Beaufort County with Flo Rosse presiding, North Charleston, Anderson County, Richland County, Lake Wylie, and Oconee County.
Margaret Feagin served as President from 2001-2003. During her term, Margaret expanded the Council from six to ten local chapters with regional meetings across the state to allow everyone to participate in meetings. This was a factor in the doubling of the council’s membership from previous years. The SCDWC handbook was created and distributed to all paid members at the 2002 annual meeting and the first DWC webpage was created and linked to the State Democratic Party website. Margaret contacted county chairs to schedule county visits for those interested in starting a women’s group. Events were scheduled to meet and greet candidates for office.
The Council chartered with the National Federation of Democratic Women in 2003.