The main character in my novel is Hattie Robinson. Hattie is idealistic, opinionated and often outspoken. These are traits that put her at odds with the the male dominated customs and practices of her day. As I continued reading issues of the Keowee Courier from 1906-1909, I came across an article that provided a glimpse of a typical male view on women and their place in society. It was a view that Hattie struggled with and sometimes raged against.
In this article, Representative E.E. Verner from Oconee County, is reporting on a trip that the South Carolina legislators made to Winthrop College in January of 1908. Winthrop had been established by the South Carolina legislature in 1891, to train teachers to teach in public schools. It was originally located in Columbia, but by the time of this visit, the school had moved to its current location of Rock Hill.
The article speaks for itself. I have no doubt that it made Hattie’s blood boil when she read it.
…I’ve never yet heard a woman in public speech who did not seem out of place. I believe they should perform on musical instruments or sing in public, but public speaking, never. Let them learn to teach, to sing, to keep house, to sew, and many other good things they learn at Winthrop, but I think it would be better to leave the speech making to men.
The girls are not taught laundering at Winthrop. It seems to me that they have about as much need for that kind of training as any, as the boys all over the country now have to send, or rather do send, their laundry off to have it done.
It is a little curious to see a young lady reciting about the country, while the brother has to send his collars fifty miles to get them done to suit him.
I didn’t mean to say that our girls cannot do collars and cuffs good enough for our boys; still, if these country lads wish to appear spick and span as their town cousins, why should not their sisters be able to put the fixings on them just right?