The textbooks used today in the study of South Carolina history are influenced by the work of Mary C. Simms Oliphant. Her book The South Carolina Reader taught South Carolinians their state's history for over 60 years.
In 1916, Mary graduated from the College for Women in Columbia, South Carolina. After graduating, she was asked to update a book written by her grandfather, William Gilmore Simms,
in 1840, entitled History of South Carolina. It was to be used as a textbook in the schools. After finishing the textbook, Mary received the approval of the state board of education for its use as an official South Carolina history textbook. With this success, Mary began a writing career. She continued to update her grandfather's text, and in 1947 developed another book for third graders called Gateway to South Carolina. Her textbook introduced students to South Carolina's animals, plants, state heroes, and Native American history. This book evolved into a social studies text called South Carolina - From the Mountains to the Sea, a book that is still used as a reference and study guide.
Mary's next challenge was to publish the letters of her grandfather. He, like Mary, was fascinated with the history and landscape of South Carolina. His letters concerning the secession of the southern states from the Union filled six volumes.
Mary's research and writing led to many state honors. She was named director of the South Carolina State Library Association and received an honorary degree from the University of South Carolina. She was awarded the stateÂ’s highest honor, the Order of the Palmetto, in 1980.
Photo courtesy: The collection of Mary Simms O. Furman, courtesy of the "Shared History" project.