Date of Award
Open Access Thesis
Marjorie J. Spruill
In 1977, 800 South Carolinians came together in the state's capital of Columbia for a meeting called 'South Carolina Woman: Heritage to Horizons.' It was one of fifty-six state and territorial meetings held as part of the United States' celebration of International Women's Year (IWY.) These meetings culminated in the National Women's Conference held later that year in Houston, Texas. IWY was a federally-funded initiative to enable American women to discuss their concerns and make recommendations for national policy. It was an outgrowth of a United Nations program to advance the status of women worldwide by encouraging each nation to give women the opportunity to make their voices heard. At the state meetings held in South Carolina and elsewhere, individuals voted on core recommendations and elected delegates to represent the state at the national conference where a National Plan of Action would be adopted to advise Congress and the president on future policy. The meetings proved to be important locations where feminists and social conservatives with drastically different views about what that policy should be competed for influence. Though state meetings followed the same national guidelines and discussed similar issues, each meeting reflected the needs and interests of women in that state. This paper traces the history of the IWY in South Carolina, focusing on the state meeting from its initial planning stages through the meeting that took place June 10 and 11 and culminating in the participation of South Carolina delegates at the national conference. It examines the interactions between South Carolina feminists, including the IWY State Coordinating Committee, and the conservative forces that opposed the women's rights movement and objected to federal sponsorship of the IWY program. Though in some states social conservatives were able to compete successfully with feminists in the voting on delegates and recommendations and in some cases takeover over the meeting, this was not the case in South Carolina. However, the threat from these individuals opposed to changes in gender and race relations was significant enough that the South Carolina Coordinating Committee and other feminists felt it necessary to plan carefully and take preventive action during and after the meeting in order for feminists and a feminist message to be sent to the Houston conference. As a result, all but one of the delegates elected were supporters of the women's movement and the recommendations adopted - including most of those suggested by national IWY leaders -- were feminist in nature. This case study of the 'Heritage to Horizons' conference in South Carolina contributes to the growing body of scholarship about International Women's Year, an event of great national significance that played out differently in each state and territory. Previously states studied have mostly been those where takeovers took place, leaving a lack of understanding about states where social conservative's opposition did not completely alter the proceedings and outcome of the state meeting. As a result, by studying South Carolina, a greater understanding of what allowed, or in some cases, prevented, social conservatives from having an effect on the IWY can be achieved. This helps us understand the larger meanings of the IWY in a nation dealing with the changes of the 1960s and 1970s. In addition, it reveals much about the feminist and social conservatives in South Carolina in the 1970s.
Mans, C. M.(2013). "Heritage to Horizons": The History of the 1977 International Women's Year Conference in South Carolina. (Master's thesis). Retrieved from https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/etd/1820