Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Educational Leadership and Policies


Educational Administration

First Advisor

Chaddock, Katherine


After 1880, the Upstate of South Carolina found itself in the midst of a textile boom. As families migrated from the mountains and failing farms to find employment in one of the many textile mills, relations re-established roots within the confines of the company-owned mill village. Paternalism, the absence of child labor laws, and the lack of compulsory education mandates all combined to create an isolated community. After the turn of the century, as the Progressive movement gained momentum in the South, reformers from the middle and upper classes embraced causes like illiteracy and used their talents and determination to aid individuals suffering from this stagnate state. Through "snapshots" of educational biography, this study chronicles three pioneer Progressive educators who, from 1910-1920, worked through individual initiatives to educate mill workers in the Upstate of South Carolina. Emma Julia Selden (1880-1927) opened the first successful night schools in Spartanburg, South Carolina. David English Camak (1880-1967) established a cooperative institution for textile workers who were looking for an opportunity to have an education while continuing to work within the mills. A hundred years later, his original school building still stands, now as part of Spartanburg Methodist College. Mary Elizabeth Frayser (1868-1968) engaged in early extension work in the mill villages sponsored by a collaborative effort between Clemson and Winthrop colleges. This study examines their individual educational philosophies, unique curricula, and social agendas. In addition, the study focuses on the relevance of time and place in shaping each reformer's endeavors and examines the role of personal life experiences and motivations on their drive to make a difference. By deconstructing and comparing the efforts of each pioneer, the study reveals the collective purpose of their work: educational access for the masses. As a result, mill workers from the Upstate were exposed to educational opportunity that furthered individual development. The efforts of Selden, Camak, and Frayser filtered into the early adult education movement, the development of vocational training, and the democratic realization that education could be available to people of all classes, genders, and backgrounds.


© 2012, Jenny Williams