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They Persist: Southern Women Writers and Artists Taking Up Space

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | February 17, 2020 | No Comment |
Drawing by Minnie Evans

Untitled drawing by Minnie Evans, mid-20th century. The Johnson Collection.

On February 19, the Gibbes Museum presents “She Persisted: Women of Letters and the American South.” Authors Michele Moore and Nikky Finney will share with me some of their experiences as writers. This post contains a longer version of my remarks for this event, placing these writers’ work in a larger context of Southern women writers.

This event coincides with the exhibit now at the Gibbes, Central To Their Live: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection. These works were created despite barriers many faced: lack of access to formal training; lack of opportunity to create; racism, sexism and other historical or biographical circumstances that took over the lives of so many Southern women. Nevertheless, these artists persisted.[1] They drew; they painted. They carved sculptures; they carved out time and space to hone their craft, to develop a personal artistic style. They found ways to preserve and exhibit their work, and many found ways to make a living as artists.

Watercolor painting

“Along the Beach,” Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. The Johnson Collection.

Women in this era ventured outside their homes, once considered the only proper place for women to create art, and painted in plein air, producing startling landscapes like “Along the Beach” by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. They documented women doing non-domestic work, such as Wenonah Day Bell’s “Peach Packing” painting. Others produced monumental portraits of activists, such as the grand, four-foot-tall portrait of Madeline McDowell Breckenridge (a Kentuckian who advocated for women’s suffrage), by Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer. Abstract art also commanded attention using form and color, such as Mary Alice Leath Thomas’s “Red, Gold and Black,” 4 feet tall. Other artists use detail to compel the viewer to look more closely, like Minnie Eva Jones Evans.  Some writers created smaller-scale portraits and sculptures that carried concentrated power: a factory worker (“War Worker”) by Elizabeth Catlett; a solemn young African American boy, “Gamin,” , by Augusta Christine Fells Savage; Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington’s powerful and relaxed “Yawning Tiger.”

Painting by Mary Thomas

“Red, Gold, and Black,” Mary Alice Leath Thomas. The Johnson Collection.

Painting of women sorting peaches

“Peach Packing, Spartanburg County,” Wenonah Day Bell. The Johnson Collection

This art takes up space,[2] and not just because the works are beautiful. Collectively, these artists challenge conventional notions of femininity and power. They reveal Southern experiences and landscapes that were being overlooked in the twentieth century. 21st-century women artists face their own challenges, but they can take inspiration from these artists who preceded them.

In the same era as these visual artists, Southern women writers critiqued conventional notions of Southern womanhood, social class and race. When considering Southern literature from this era, we may first think of William Faulkner, whose landmark modernism challenged conventional modes of storytelling and conventional stories about the South, dismantling the myth of an idyllic Old South. Faulkner’s work also interrogated his readers’ notions of manhood, womanhood, race and social class, suggesting that these are socially constructed rather than permanent and essential elements of a human being. In this regard, some earlier southern women writers like Kate Chopin were actually ahead of Faulkner, and women like Katherine Anne Porter and Zora Neale Hurston, writing at the same time as Faulkner, were offering their own critiques of social constructs that their characters sought to transcend.

Cover of The Awakening by Kate Chopin

First edition of The Awakening, 1899

Kate Chopin’s fiction won praise in the late 1800s for capturing daily life in northwestern Louisiana, but also drew criticism for her frank treatment of topics considered improper for polite society–interracial relationships, and women refusing traditional female roles. Chopin’s 1899 masterpiece, The Awakening, was called “sordid” and “vulgar” because its heroine valued sensual fulfilment found in an extramarital affair, and longed to express herself creatively even when that required abandoning her role as a wife and mother.

Katherine Anne Porter, who lacked the financial security that surrounded Chopin all her life, began publishing fiction in the 1920s. Her characters included a farm woman struggling to care for a mentally disabled son, a hardworking wife and mother whose long life was now slipping away, a young girl struggling to understand birth and mortality.  Porter’s stories challenge the toxic myth that white Southern women were asexual, fragile “ladies” that white Southern men must protect in order to maintain white supremacy.

Also during the 1920s, Zora Neale Hurston studied anthropology and began documenting African American lives, including the all-black town of Eatonville Florida.  Many of Hurston’s female characters lacked access to the education Hurston had managed to obtain, and are hindered by racism and by sexist assumptions that good women obey and defer to men. Hurston’s 1936 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God disproves this assumption through the journey of its protagonist, who ends the novel alone and at peace, commanding her landscape:

She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.

photo of Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

Photo of Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty, 1946

During the 1940s, Hurston’s fortunes began to decline, but another writer’s career was taking off. Eudora Welty wasn’t rich, but had enough financial security to write for years before earning any royalties. Many publishers initially rejected her short stories, and nevertheless, she persisted—as did her loyal and well-connected literary agent. Welty’s published fiction, ranging from humorous to lyric to tragic, was always stylistically innovative. The women in Welty’s works are often judged and acted upon according to conventional notions of womanhood, race, and social class. Often it’s women who impose these conventional limitations on one another, as in a story about a woman working ceaselessly in her flower garden while her neighbors look disapprovingly from their upstairs windows. She gardens

without any regard for ideas that her neighbors might elect in their clubs as to what constituted an appropriate vista, or an effect of restfulness, or even harmony of color. Just to what end [she] worked so strenuously in her garden, her neighbors could not see. . . .

A garden, for Welty, was a place of discovery, an emblem of the creative imagination; she and her mother loved the garden of their upper middle-class home in Jackson, Mississippi. Gardens were also important for women struggling just to make ends meet, as Georgia-born writer Alice Walker noted in an essay called “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens.” She described her mother’s ability to grow flowers “as if by magic,” despite having to work in the fields and care for her family. Walker wrote,

It is only when my mother is working in her flowers that she is radiant, almost to the point of being invisible-except as Creator: hand and eye. She is involved in work her soul must have. Ordering the universe in the image of her personal conception of Beauty.

Painting of artist's studio

Theresa Pollak, “Art Studio.” The Johnson Collection.

In these writers’ works, Southern women often persist despite being hemmed in by poverty, racism, sexism, or loneliness. Women create their own gardens, like the studio depicted in Theresa Pollak’s painting–places where they can take up space and transform it.

At the Feb 19 event, we’ll hear from two Southern writers who are part of this larger landscape of women writers and artists.  Both Michele Moore and Nikky Finney have told stories about the South that, I believe, have not been told often enough. Some readers may assume that women writers explore familial and domestic situations, but Moore and Finney’s works demonstrate how much the political and the public can influence, and sometimes invade, the personal and the private.

Photo of Nikky Finney

Nikky Finney, John H. Bennett Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters, U of South Carolina

Cover of book, Love Child's Hotbed

Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry

Nikky Finney’s prize-winning poetry shows us the constant interplay between the inner lives of her Black subjects and the public world that often menaces them, a society whose past crimes haunt and animate the present day. The speakers in Finney’s poems operate against a backdrop of relentless racism, sexism and homophobia that is both systemic and personal. Nevertheless, the speaker’s interior consciousness persists, not defined by those who would harm or exploit them. Finney’s poems create astonishing moments of quiet lyric space, a sanctuary that coexists with the sinister powers that threaten Black bodies. With care and great power, Finney’s work documents the collective histories of our region and the personal histories of Black family members who have survived and even thrived.

Cover of novel, The Cigar Factory

The Cigar Factory

Photo of Michele Moore

Michele Moore

Michele Moore’s 2016 novel The Cigar Factory demonstrates that Charleston has always contained more than wealthy white aristocrats and the very poor. The stories of Charleston’s middle class and working class residents have rarely been fully told, but in this novel we follow 40 years in the lives of families who work at the cigar factory. Both Catholic, but of two different races and separated at work, they don’t know each other for most of the novel. Not only does The Cigar Factory tell the story of the workers who formed an interracial alliance during the 1940s, but it also lets us hear their voices, so much alike at times that readers may wonder whether it’s the African American or Irish American characters who are talking.

May the persistent solidarity of these women move and inspire us, in our own time, to take up space together, forming alliances across races, classes, and sexual identities.


Portrait of Madeline Breckenridge

Portrait of Madeline McDowell Breckenridge by Ella Sophonisba Hergeshiemer. Breckenridge, from Kentucky, was a women’s suffrag advocate. The Johnson Collection

Central to their Lives will be at the Gibbes Museum through May 3. The Gibbes is free on Wednesdays 4-8 PM to students with a valid ID.

A play adapted from Michele Moore’s The Cigar Factory will be performed February 21 and 22.

Nikky Finney’s latest book, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, will be released in April, but copies will also be available for purchase at the February 19 reading.


[1] Read about the origins of “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

[2] Read one woman’s comments on the way she claims her own space in a world where “women have not been socialized to take up space.”

under: Uncategorized

Teachers Can Turn This Thing Around, Y’all

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | February 9, 2020 | No Comment |

The College of Charleston will be hosting the All Y’all Social Justice Collective July 8-9, 2020. One of the organizers, Adam Jordan, is now in his second year teaching in C of C’s Department of Teacher Education. Adam and his All Y’all colleagues describe the summer event as “a two-day professional learning series that is open to all educators, community members, students, and anyone who wants to improve the schooling experience in the Southeast region of the U. S.” Doesn’t that include all of us who read this blog? I think so. All Y'all Social Justice Collective logo of 3 raised fists

This workshop is free to all–a boon especially to those teachers who receive no funding for professional development they’re required to complete for their licensure. This year’s theme is Addressing Inequities in Southern Public Schooling:  Our Past, Present, and Future. Do you know a teacher or a prospective teacher or concerned member of our community who might be interested in attending? Register here now!  Do you think you’d like to present something at this conference? The call for presentations, due April 5, can be found here. Contact Adam at jordanaw@cofc.edu or find @aj_wade on twitter to learn more.

photo of Adam Jordan

Adam Jordan

You may have heard of the All Y’all Social Justice Collective if you read the Bitter Southerner. Adam Jordan and Todd Hawley write for this publication, and the Bitter Southerner is selling red T-shirts (“Teachers can turn this thing around”)  to benefit the Social Justice Collective’s tuition-free program.

Adam told me recently that he’s now launched a blog, Mouth of the South. His first Mouth of the South column discusses his upbringing in rural Georgia, inspired by good teachers–educators in the classroom, but also the bus driver, whose daily goodbyes he recalls fondly. “The last ones off, she’d make sure to remind us to ‘Let the wind-ers up’ in a beautiful accent I now long to hear.”

His most recent column invites readers to share their own experiences in the South, “We need your words,” he tells his readers (that’s us!).

“The South we know is filled with folks that argue over their grits, their gravy, their biscuits, their tofu, and their shakshuka.  It is a place where people wrestle with the legacy of this place, a legacy rooted in pain and oppression, while simultaneously embracing the proud points of our collective heritages.  So too must the stories that show up on these pages.  Please, share your voices.”

Proud to know you, Adam. Keep sharing your voice.



under: Faculty, K-12 Teachers, Racial Disparities, Social Activism in the South

Isaac Harby, the Election of 1824, and the Rise of Andrew Jackson

By Daniel Gullotta, Research Fellow at Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture, October 2019

photo of author

Daniel Gullotta

In Dinesh D’Souza’s 2018 “documentary” Death of a Nation, the political provocateur sat down with white nationalist and Alt-Right figure Richard Spencer to discuss American history. In the interview, D’Souza asked Spencer who his favorite president was, and he responded, “There’s something about [Andrew] Jackson.” D’Souza was quick to point out that Jackson was the founder of the Democratic Party, as if it were a gotcha moment on tape. Spencer shrugged. Because of my interest in Jackson and my research on how religion shaped his voters and the rise of the Democratic Party, this interview was sent to me by a colleague for comment. While it was another sign of Jackson’s decline in public reception, it did strike me as interesting (and a little funny) that an anti-Semite and white supremacist like Spencer would pick Jackson as a hero—Jackson, who was notably popular within Jewish circles in the early Republic.

Oil painting of Andrew Jackson

“General Jackson in 1819,” John Wesley Jarvis. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

silhouette of Isaac Harby

Silhouette of Isaac Harby

While sources related to Jewish political activity in the Age of Jackson are limited, one key figure is Charleston’s Isaac Harby. Best known today as an innovator of Reform Judaism, Harby was more famous then as a contributor to and editor of several newspapers, including the Southern Patriot, City Gazette, and Charleston Mercury. Harby wrote several pieces in favor of Jackson under the pseudonym “Junis.” Knowing that significant papers relating to Harby are housed in the College of Charleston’s Jewish Heritage Collection at Addlestone Library, I was delighted to receive a fellowship from the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture to continue my research into Harby’s alliance with the Jacksonian coalition and the role Jews played in helping form what we know today as the Democratic Party.

Upon arriving in Charleston, my first instinct was to study everything and anything pertaining to Isaac Harby. Among Harby’s papers were the handwritten drafts of his writings supporting Andrew Jackson for president. Harby lauded Jackson’s war efforts during the Battle of New Orleans (1815), characterized Jackson as the true heir of Thomas Jefferson, and defended the more worrisome elements of Jackson’s character, such as his invocation of martial law and his illegal invasion of Spanish Florida. While the bulk of the original texts are identical to what was published, it seems that Harby had to reign in his gushing for Jackson. Much of the praise Harby heaps onto Jackson was cut, and I speculate this was done to present a humbler image of the candidate or maybe to present the author as a more objective observer of the presidential race. While I discovered no startling new document, it was remarkable to see Harby’s unfiltered praise for Jackson on full display.

Image of manuscript written by Harby

What struck me most was the anti-northern, anti-Adams, and anti-abolitionist aspects of Harby’s writings. Though I had read these documents over and over again, perhaps it was being in Charleston—in the South—that made me pay attention to Harby’s relationship with slavery. With the help of Dr. Dale Rosengarten and reference archivist Sam Stewart, I was able to connect more of the dots, including Harby’s reporting on the aborted slave revolt led by a Denmark Vesey in Charleston in 1822. Scholars debate how real or imagined the slave revolt was, but even a threat of rebellion was enough to terrify white Southerners. Harby’s City Gazette described Vesey’s plot as “a scheme of wildness and of wickedness” and blamed the “poison” of anti-slavery politicians following the Missouri Comprise in 1820.

Newspaper ad for runaway slave

Andrew Jackson offered fifty dollars for this enslaved man’s return, “and ten dollars extra for every hundred lashes any person will give him.” 

Given that Jackson was known as an unapologetic slaveholder and a brutal executor of rebellious slaves, Harby would have found him all the more appealing in the years following the Vesey incident. All of this made me consider the state of Jewish slaveholding in Charleston at the time of Jackson’s rise to the presidency. According to Ira Rosenswaike’s estimates, out of the 109 Jewish households living in Charleston in 1820, 92 families held people in bondage, totaling roughly 481 slaves out of the total enslaved population of approximately 12,652. Based on these statistics, Charleston’s Jewish population owned about 3.8 percent of the city’s enslaved population. Southern Jews, like their southern Christian fellow citizens, no doubt desired to see a president like Andrew Jackson endeavor to protect and promote their southern interests.

While I had hoped to find writings advocating religious liberty for Jews and promoting Jackson as a Jeffersonian defender of the separation of church and state, my research led me back to slavery, time and time again, as the main concern for Harby. At first this was disappointing, but soon it became more interesting, as it made me consider the changing nature of American politics for Jews in the early Republic. It occurred to me that the lack of these concerns, compared to the election of 1800 (where Jewish supporters of Thomas Jefferson were lambasted as anti-Christian radicals by John Adam’s Federalists), marked an evolution of Jewish alliances and signaled the integration of Jews within southern society and its “peculiar institution.” It is remarkable to me how much Isaac Harby’s concerns and interests match those of his white Christian neighbors and how similar his pro-Jackson writings are to those of other Jacksonians at the time. Using rhetoric that would soon become creedal for Jacksonians, Harby declared it was “the duty of Republicans…to oppose, by every means, certain doctrines, which have of late been disseminated by the advocates of banks and armies, by the admirers of courts and by the abolition society and its secret branches.” With the collapse of the first-party system and new challenges facing the American nation, Harby had transitioned from a Jeffersonian Jew to a Jacksonian Jew.

under: Charleston History, Research Projects, Southern Jewish History

Register for S 2020 Courses

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | October 29, 2019 | No Comment |

Check our Spring 2020 course offerings. Students can study abroad, complete the First-Year Experience requirement and other Gen Ed requirements, make progress towards a major or the Honors College program, or enjoy an elective course, all while studying the South. If you haven’t taken Intro to Southern Studies (SOST 200), this Spring might be a good time to do so.  Students in this semester’s SOST 200 are enjoying visits from faculty and community members who study the South and contribute to its well-being. They’ve examined archival documents in Special Collections and enjoyed a walking tour of the neighborhood with Dr. Annette Watson/

We also heard old-time music played by the Pluff Mud String Band. Fisher Wilson, one of the members of the band, earned a C of C Music degree in 2019 after having taken SOST 200 in his senior year. Go here to see and hear them play!

Fiddle and banjo players in classroom

Ian Gleason, fiddle, and Fisher Wilson, Banjo.


This week four more faculty visited the SOST 200 class.  Students had read articles by Dale Rosengarten on sweetgrass basket artists and on Jews in South Carolina, and heard her talk about her work in person. Students had also read work on Charleston architecture by Nathaniel Walker, and they heard him talk about his research on the development of “modern” Charleston in the early 20th century.

We also read the introduction to Gibbs Knotts’s book The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People. Dr. Knotts talked to students about his work, and then we heard from Dr. Jordan Ragusa, who co-authored a new book with Gibbs Knotts, First in the South, on the South Carolina primary.

Book cover, The Resilience of Southern Identity

Professor pointing to slide in classroom

Dr. Jordan Ragusa

Still to come: visits from an environmental historian (Dr. Hayden Ros Smith) who’s written a book on rice cultivation, and from cultural anthropologist Brian Walter who’s researching the way people in our area are responding to flooding and rising sea levels. Finally we’re looking forward to learning to sing spirituals from the distinguished and talented Ann Caldwell.

Oh, and students are beginning to conduct research for their final projects, each on a topic they have chosen. Topics due by Monday, students! I’ll see y’all Tuesday in the library.

Dr. Watson discusses prisoners who were held in the City Jail.

under: Uncategorized

Charleston as a Classroom: A First-Year Seminar with Dale Rosengarten

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | September 13, 2019 | No Comment |
Students beneath chandelier with docent at Aiken-Rhett house

Aiken-Rhett House

Dr. Dale Rosengarten is proud to share students’ work from the first-year seminar she taught in Spring 2019, “Charleston as a Classroom.”  Designed to introduce first-year students to the historical resources housed on every street in the city, the syllabus reserved Tuesday class meetings for lectures, guest speakers, document study, and discussions; on Thursdays, students took field trips to historic sites, archives, museums, cemeteries, churches, synagogues, and fellowship halls.

Class members were Bella Arcoria, Emma Baker, Jade Benson, Lauren M. Coggins, Alec Cohen, Molly S. Dougherty, Izzy (Taro) Floyd, Valentina Granada, McKenzie Heaton, Vance Lupton, Anna Martin, Madison T. McNamara, Danyel E. Meahan, Katie Nazaridis, Lauren O’Steen, Mallory Poston, Kendall Tally, Amy Vella, Asia C. Williams.

Dr. Rosengarten has created a booklet of highlights from field trip logs these students kept throughout the semester, along with some of their photographs. Click here to open and download the booklet in PDF.

January 10: Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, St. Philip and Calhoun Streets

January 17: The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, 122 E. Bay Street

January 24: The Old Slave Mart Museum, 6 Chalmers Street

Students at Old Slave Mart museum with docent and historic marker

Old Slave Mart

January 31: Historic Charleston Foundation, Captain James Misroon House, 40 East Bay St

February 7: Aiken-Rhett House, 48 Elizabeth Street

February 12: An Evening With Nikky Finney, City Gallery, Waterfront Park, 34 Prioleau St

February 13: The Charleston Museum, 360 Meeting Street

February 21: Grimke Sisters Tour with Carol Ezell Gilson

Students in exterior courtyard at Drayton Hall

Drayton Hall

February 28: Drayton Hall, 3380 Ashley Hall Road

March 7: French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, Church & Queen Streets, and Huguenot Society Library, 138 Logan Street

March 14: Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), 90 Hasell Street

March 28: Coming Street Cemetery, 189 Coming Street

At 35 Chapel Street, current owner discusses renovation with students

35 Chapel Street


April 2: 35 Chapel Street (ca. 1835-40), Built By Sylvia (Silvi) Miles, a Free Woman of Color, on Land Leased by William H. Holmes, A Planter who lived on Charlotte Street. Renovated by Drs. Louis and Andrea Weinstein

April 11: Catholic Diocese Archive & Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 114 & 120 Broad Street



under: Uncategorized

Filling in the Gaps on Two SC Slave Narratives

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | August 24, 2019 | No Comment |

Dr. Susanna Ashton, Clemson University

The English Department is proud to bring Dr. Susanna Ashton to campus as our Visiting Scholar Sept 9-11. Susanna is Professor and Chair of the English Department at Clemson University and an expert on slave narratives. On Sept 9 she will lecture on Samuel Williams, the subject of her Lowcountry Digital History Initiative exhibit (5:30 pm Addlestone 227, please register via Eventbrite.) On Sept 10 she’ll talk about John Andrew Jackson, another slave narrative author who will be the subject of a biography she is writing (5:30 pm in the EHHP Alumni Center). On Sept 11 she will conduct a faculty workshop on finding support for humanities research in archives and rare book libraries. Space limited to 20–please preregister here.

Many thanks to LDHI and Addlestone Friends of the Library and to History, African American Studies, and CLAW for their support of this event. Southern Studies is delighted to be among the co-sponsors.

Susanna’s books include I Belong to South Carolina: SC Slave Narratives, 2010; The South Carolina Roots of African American Thought, co-edited with Rhondda Thomas, and most recently, an award-winning MLA collection,  Approaches to Teaching the Works of Charles Chesnutt, co-edited with Bill Hardwig.

under: African American Studies, Charleston History, Civil War, SC, Southern Literature

The Pollitzer Sisters in Charleston—And Around the World

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | June 12, 2019 | No Comment |

This post is by Melissa R. Klapper, Professor of History and Director of Women’s & Gender Studies, Rowan University.

During my visit to Charleston last March as research fellow at the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture, I made a sort of pilgrimage to 5 Pitt Street, the house where sisters Anita, Carrie, and Mabel Pollitzer grew up. I was delighted not only to see a historical marker on the site, but also to see that Carrie and Mabel got their due as well as their more famous (outside Charleston, at least) younger sister Anita. Anita (1894–1975), who left Charleston for college after graduating from Memminger High School and never really returned to the city to live, gained national and even international renown for her work with the National Woman’s Party, the more militant wing of the suffrage movement.  After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, she continued to work on feminist issues, most notably as a longtime advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment, which was first brought before Congress in 1923.  Her sisters Mabel and Carrie also ardently worked for women’s enfranchisement and were charter members of the Charleston Equal Suffrage League. Carrie (1881–1974) served as the assistant principal of Memminger, directed the South Carolina Kindergarten Training School, and became active in the Charleston City Federation of Women’s Clubs.  Mabel (1885–1979) graduated from Teachers College at Columbia University in New York and then returned home to teach at Memminger.  She was president of the Charleston County Teachers’ Association and helped establish the Charleston County Library.  Both Carrie and Mabel lived to a ripe old age and became beloved figures in the city.  But that didn’t mean they never left Charleston.

Carrie Pollitzer

I came to Addlestone Library, home of the College of Charleston’s Special Collections and the South Carolina Historical Society’s archives, to conduct research for my current book project on American Jewish women who traveled abroad between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War II.  These decades saw foreign travel become more accessible to a growing number of Americans thanks to the development of less expensive tourist-class travel and accommodation and the growing popularity of the idea of vacations.  All three Pollitzer sisters traveled with some frequency.  And in 1926 Carrie set out on what turned into an epic journey of nearly two years abroad, keeping a travel journal all the while (Anita Pollitzer Family Papers, SCHS 1210.00, Box 24/29/1).  That travel journal is the very stuff of history, and in its pages Carrie’s comments on her adventures shed valuable light on the way that American, gender, and Jewish identity interplayed in all American Jewish women’s travels abroad.

The travel journal covers a lot of ground, but there are three elements I will emphasize here.  The first is Jewish identity.  The Pollitzer family was involved with KKBE, but none of the sisters were traditionally observant and Jewishness rarely shaped their life choices.  Still, while abroad, like many other American Jewish women, they found themselves attending synagogue services, marking Jewish holidays in their diaries, socializing with other Jews, and visiting Jewish homelands, memorials, and cemeteries.  Carrie ate at a kosher lunchroom in Paris (August 2, 1926), remarked on the Arch of Titus in Rome, which was erected to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem (December 26, 1926), and visited her maternal family’s synagogue in Vienna.  Of this last experience she wrote, “This morning I went to services in the old synagogue where my grandparents worshipped.  I feel it a great privilege to be able to do this.  The synagogue is small but very fine.  The chanting was beautiful” (June 18, 1927).

The second noteworthy element of the journal is Carrie’s reaction to the standard sightseeing she did.  She benefited from the new tourist industry that had developed over the previous few decades, which sprang up to serve adventurous but not necessarily wealthy travelers, a mass of people who depended on affordable guidebooks, maps, and markers to ease their journeys and tell them where to go and what to do.  Like so many others, Carrie dutifully admired the art at the Louvre (July 28, 1926) and went to see “The Last Supper” in Milan (October 21, 1926).  She was not always so impressed by the standard sights, however.  After touring St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, she drily noted that “The most flattering comment I can truthfully make:  It is big, its pictures are big, its sculpture is big.  The whole thing is big and glitters with gold” (December 12, 1926).

The last element of the journal worthy of comment here is the displacement that accompanied even the most exciting extended trips abroad.  While Anita joined her for segments of her trip, Carrie traveled alone for much of the time.  Though she interacted with all kinds of people, she began to feel sad and tired of being so much on her own.  Marking Thanksgiving in her journal in 1927, she wrote disconsolately, “I feel so lonely.  I wish I were in  Bft. [Beaufort] with bright faces around me” (November 25, 1927).  Soon afterward she decided to go home to Charleston.

Nov. 25, 1927 journal

As these (hopefully tantalizing) references to Carrie Pollitzer’s travel journal make clear, American Jewish women’s travel experiences reflected, both literally and metaphorically, the opening up of the world to women.  Looking at Jewish women in particular allows for analysis of the ways in which travel disrupted and complicated identity for a group whose religious and cultural traditions emphasized conventionally gendered notions of female domesticity, even though such notions were often honored in the breach by economically active and activist American Jewish women of all class backgrounds.  Southern Jewish women like the Pollitzer sisters were just as likely to take advantage of new opportunities for travel as any others, bringing their experiences home with them to enrich their families and communities.

under: Uncategorized

2018-2019 in Review

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | June 2, 2019 | No Comment |

2018-19 was crammed full of exciting events and activities put on by the Southern Studies program and the many College faculty and academic programs who study the South. The volume of things to report has necessitated six separate posts, people! Certainly no human being could have attended all these events, so click the links below if you would like to review just how much was going on.

Fall 2018 included over a dozen events including lectures on Yiddish politics, Anson Street burials, Southern photography, and a performance by Cary Ann Hearst.

Spring 2019 was even more overflowing with events that included two academic conferences, lectures and symposia on foodways and memory and memorialization, an unforgettable procession down George Street for the ancestors’ reinterment, and an evening with Henry Louis Gates.

The College saw several important developments related to Southern Studies, from the formation of the Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston to our first 5 students completing the Southern Studies minor. Faculty continue to publish academic work related to the south,  and students and faculty continue to share their knowledge of the region with the public and with community partners, as this summary indicates. And next year’s line-up of upcoming events and future publications also looks very promising.

Please enjoy this round-up and be proud of the many important and productive ways that C of C faculty, students, and staff are studying the South. As I noted when I started this blog back in late 2016, “studying”  is what you do when you care about the region. You pay close attention; you strive to understand people and phenomena in greater depth. You share your knowledge with others who seek to make our region a better place for all. I’m very proud to be in the company of so many people doing this great work. Much more work is still needed, more urgently than ever. Bravo, and onward.

Julia Eichelberger

under: Uncategorized

What Can We Expect in 2019-20?

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | June 2, 2019 | No Comment |

Here are a few events and programs being planned for 2019-20, as well as a list of publications expected in the coming year. Further details will be featured on the blog and via our faculty listserv.  Stay tuned!

A new special topics course in Arts Management for Fall 2019:  ARTM 360-04: ST: Managing and Documenting the Charleston Jazz Initiative – M – 4:00-6:45 – 316 Simons Center for the Arts

Fall 2019: Halsey Gallery will exhibit works by New Orleans printmaker Katrina Andry and by Charleston artist Colin Quashie.

The College’s Bully Pulpit Series will be hosting a number of presidential candidates in the coming months. The organizers will share details as soon as they know them.

Sept 7-14 Pride Week at C of C

Sept 9-11 Susanna Ashton, Clemson English professor and author of works on slave narratives and African American writers as well as an LDHI exhibit, on campus English Department’s Visiting Scholar. Public lectures and workshops TBA.

Sept 12  4-6 Pm AAST Film Screening, Traces of the Trade

Sept 25 Presentation by Eric Crawford/Brigitta Johnson (music/ethnomusicology scholars who will discuss music in relation to Race, Religion, Resistance)

October 2-6   Association for the Study of African American Life & History ASALAH Conference (Embassy Suites Hilton, N Chas)

October 3    Charleston Museum/Gullah Geechee Meal with Chef Kevin Mitchell

Oct 21-25, times TBA: Events related to Daniel Black’s novel The Coming

October 21-23  Southeastern Museums Conference

Oct 25 WGST’s Yes! I’m a Feminist

October 24-26 2019 Conference The Architectures of Slavery: Ruins and Reconstructions at C of C, hosted by ARTH/HPCP (Nathaniel Walker, Barry Stiefel)

Nov 12 AAST’S Consuela Francis Lecture: Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh, speaking on religious culture, religious consciousness, and resistance among enslaved Black women in the South.  

Spring 2020: Halsey will feature Southern artists Butch Anthony and Coulter Fussell.

Jan 30 (Founders Day): launch of College’s 250th anniversary; lecture by John McCurdy, author of Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution.

May 14-17      Port Cities in the Atlantic Conference (CLAW)

Some Forthcoming Publications

Vince Benigni will be lead author of an invited chapter for the Handbook for Sports Fans and Fandom (Routledge), which will be published in 2020,  tentatively titled “Emotions in Motion: Twitter and the SEC Coaching Carousel.”

Knotts, H. Gibbs, and Jordan M. Ragusa’s  First in the South: Why South Carolina’s Presidential Primary Matters, is forthcoming from the University of South Carolina Press.

Bourne, Henry James, Christopher A. Cooper, and H. Gibbs Knotts.  “When the Personal Vote Isn’t Enough: Voter Mobilization and the Failed Effort to Change the Form of Government in Columbia, South Carolina.” Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs, forthcoming.

Harriet Pollack’s  collection New Essays on Welty, Class, and Race will be published by UP of Mississippi, the first in a series of books on Welty that she is editing. Another essay, “Evolving Secrets: Eudora Welty and the Mystery Genre” will appear in Detecting The South in Fiction, Film, and Television. 

Nathaniel Walker will be publishing “Designing the Diaspora: Expressing African Heritage in Historic Charleston,” a talk delivered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at an international conference Through Local Eyes: Place-Based Approaches to Emerging Architectural, Urban Design and Planning Challenges in Africa and the Global South.  That conference is producing a book that will include his talk.


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Recent Developments at C of C

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | June 2, 2019 | No Comment |

New C of C Programs, Curricula, and Other Developments in 2018-19

A huge array of great courses were offered for the Southern Studies minor in Fall 18 and Spring 19.  Additionally, these developments:

Sept 24 2018 C of C announces new Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston, directed by Bernard Powers.  Representatives of CSSC attended Fall Symposium of Universities Studying Slavery Oct 24-26  2018 Tougaloo College, Jackson, MS, co-hosted by University of Mississippi.

Nov 2018 Presidential Search Committee and Board of Trustees choose Dr. Andrew T. Hsu as C of C’s 23rd president.

Feb-March 2019 –A public mini-course on “Southern Jewish History” by Shari Rabi attracted around 50 people at each of the three meetings

Julia Eichelberger with Marti Stegall, Jake Anders, Patty Ploehn, Stella Rounsefell, Mary Scott Gilbert

Spring 2019 First 5 Students Complete Interdisciplinary Minor in Southern Studies


March 8 Student walkout and rally in protest of racist video posted on social media by C of C students on class field trip   

April 15 College announces that its property along the Stono River formerly called Dixie Plantation, will now be called Stono Preserve.  

“Hidden Hands” garden at Stono Preserve

April 28 Groundbreaking ceremony for new Teaching Garden, “Hidden Hands that Worked this Soil” at Stono Preserve, sponsored by MS in Environmental and Sustainability Studies

May 26-June 7 2019 Center for Southern Jewish Culture’s NEH Institute (jewishsouthsummer.cofc.edu)

June 2019: Voices of Southern Hospitality Oral History Project enters its second year

Finally, in Summer 2019 we regretfully congratulate these valued colleagues on new opportunities that are taking them away from C of C. We’ll miss you! Wishing you all the best in this next chapter: 

Shari Rabin (JWST) will begin teaching at Oberlin; Patricia Williams Lessane (DIrector of the Avery) will become Associate VP for Academic Affairs at Morgan State University; Rebecca Shumway (HIST) will begin teaching at U of Wisconsin-Milwaukee); Jerry Hale, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, who along with the rest of HSS has been a big supporter of the Southern Studies program, will become Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the U of Tennessee-Chattanooga.


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