Anne King Gregorie: Snubbed by her professors, historian made history herself

Historians in the News

When Anne King Gregorie submitted her doctoral dissertation to the USC history department in 1929, the all-male review panel reacted with the typical gender bias of the times.

They blasted Gregorie’s style as simplistic, found fault with the punctuation and suggested some of the work might not have been original.

“No one criticized my use of sources or offered constructive criticism,” Gregorie later wrote. “I announced to the Department that my style was my own, and that I would assume full responsibility for it; that the Department’s job was to evaluate the historical aspect of my work.”

On the quality of her research, the all-male panel, no doubt reluctantly, judged Gregorie worthy of her doctoral degree, the first for a woman from the school’s history department.

During the March celebration of Women’s History Month, it’s worth noting that even women historians had to break down barriers.

“She was quite remarkable,” said Robin Copp, curator of published materials at the South Caroliniana Library. “She was very much a Southern lady. People who knew her made that point. She was not aggressive, yet she blazed a path.”

Gregorie was the daughter of a Lowcountry plantation family who, like so many others, struggled upon losing its property after the Civil War. She graduated from Winthrop in 1906 and taught at several primary schools. She enrolled in graduate school at USC in 1924 and earned her masters in 1926.

Gregorie taught at colleges in Arkansas and Alabama before returning to South Carolina, where she was directed the Historical Records Survey for the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration.

She led the mostly female corps that repaired and copied county records throughout the state until financing ran out in 1941. Countless historians and genealogy buffs at the S.C. Archives and History Center have used their work through the years.

Later, Gregorie wrote histories of Sumter County and the Christ Church Parish and spent 10 years as editor of South Carolina Historical Magazine. (Her first paid writing assignment, for the grand sum of $3, was a book review in The State.)

Gregorie obviously rose above the original snub of her doctoral dissertation on Revolutionary War hero Thomas Sumter. That doesn’t mean she forgot. Years later, when her work was published, Gregorie gave no credit to the USC history department.

“When I printed my book, I did not contaminate the department by associating it with so unworthy a product,” she wrote.

Today’s historians consider Gregorie’s work the best biography of the complicated and flawed general, Copp said. Also, her history of Sumter County, published in 1954, won a prestigious award of merit from the American Association for State and Local History.

When Gregorie died in 1960, the Charleston News & Courier said she “was one of those scholarly gentlewomen of South Carolina to whom we all owe a debt. As a teacher, author and editor, she helped to spread understanding of South Carolina’s civilization.”

Read entire article at The State (Columbia, South Carolina)

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs - 3/23/2006

"...the daughter of a Lowcountry plantation family who, like so many others, struggled upon losing its property after the Civil War."

Not denigrating, so to speak, her accomplishments but does the curious phrasing,
"its property" = slaves?