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   Volume IV, Issue 3
February 2008   

Three women who challenged the collapse of Reconstruction in South Carolina

Darlene Clark Hine, professor of African American studies and history at Northwestern University, spoke about her new book project, “Rehearsal for Freedom: South Carolina women and social struggle before Brown,” as part of Black History Month, in Falvey’s first floor lounge on Feb. 19. This special event was sponsored by Africana Studies and Falvey Memorial Library.

For the past seven years, Dr. Hine has done extensive research on three women, Martha Schofield, Dr. Matilda A. Evans and Maude Callen. Each of these women made unique and significant contributions to the people of South Carolina after the collapse of Reconstruction in 1877 up until the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Martha Schofield, the only white woman of the three, was a feminist, suffragist, temperance supporter and anti-racist. She started the Schofield Normal and Industrial School 1868 in Aiken (S.C.) and formulated a curriculum that offered both academic and technical training for newly emancipated African Americans.

Schofield encouraged students to invest in themselves, and she opened a print shop and store that taught self-sufficiency and that also contributed to the local economy. In the 1890s her businesses generated $10,000 in revenue for the town of Aiken. Because of these significant monetary contributions to the community, Schofield garnered support from the white community for the school.

Matilda A. Evans was a student of Schofield’s. Schofield mentored Evans and arranged for her to go to Oberlin College in Ohio. Evans left Oberlin and returned to Aiken to teach before attending the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, graduating in 1897. Evans became the first licensed black woman physician in South Carolina. Evans treated both black and white patients, and became popular with women who preferred a female doctor. In 1901, Evans founded the Taylor Lane Hospital, Columbia’s first black hospital.

However, Dr. Hine’s real passion lies in the story of Maude Callen. Callen received her education from Florida A&M University and moved to Berkeley County (S.C.) in 1923. Here, she set up practice in Pineville as a nurse and midwife at a time when health reformers considered midwives dirty and incompetent. Callen treated anyone who came to her and also began training other women to be midwives.

In 1950, due to Callen’s diligence and dedication, the improvement in the health of Pineville’s residents contributed to South Carolina becoming a health model for the nation. This news story attracted the attention of W. Eugene Smith, a photojournalist for Life magazine. Smith travelled to Pineville to document Callen’s work.

After encountering some resistance from Callen, Smith was able to get enough material to publish a twelve page photo essay of Callen and her work in the December, 1951 issue of Life magazine. As a result of Smith’s photo essay, Callen received over $17,500 in contributions from people all over the world. She used this money to open the Maude Callen Clinic in Berkeley (S.C.).

Dr. Hine made the point that the contributions of all three women did not meet with much resistance from the white community. All three were considered assets to their communities and were respected by their white counterparts. Dr. Hine finished her talk by emphasizing the importance of continuing to research women who worked during this “second rehearsal” period in the South, in black majority counties where blacks and whites could find a common ground.

Contributed by Laura Hutelmyer; photograph by Chris Barr