South Carolina Monument to the Women of the Confederacy
On February 18, 1909, the 44th anniversary of the Burning of Columbia, future governor John G. Richards, Jr., introduced a bill to erect a monument to the women of the Confederacy with funds supplied by the General Assembly and “the men of South Carolina.” The United Daughters of the Confederacy—the very women it was meant to commemorate—rejected calls for this type of memorialization, believing it was not indicative of their civic accomplishments (including the installation of the South Carolina Monument to the Confederate Dead) and would adversely affect the growing movement for women’s suffrage. Despite this, the South Carolina General Assembly appropriated $7,500 and its main champion, William Elliott Gonzales, then the editor of The State, used the paper to raise another $11,000 in private subscriptions.
Originally installed at the bottom of the steps on the State House’s east side and later moved multiple times, this allegorical monument depicts a middle-aged white woman, “meditating over the past and future of her people, looking out into space, with the Bible…resting on her knee,” while being crowned in victory by a winged figure representing the Genius of State. In designing this statue, the monument’s main supporters, led by Gonzales and sculptor Frederick Wellington Ruckstull, celebrated the women who had supported the Confederacy while also arguing for their continued subservience to men. According to historian Tom Brown, it “sought less to recall the historic achievements of particular individuals than to prescribe a moral standard,” one that focused less on the wartime activities of these women (only one of the three inscriptions written by Gonzales mentions their labor) than on their role as mothers, “the highest calling of womanhood.”