By Jennet Robinson Alterman
December 20, 2008
To you the class of twenty oh eight…Congratulations…you have made it!!! Now before I start I need to know a few things…Will all of the women who are receiving degrees today please raise your hand…You and Mary and Lucille and I would not be receiving degrees today were it not for a woman named Carrie Pollitzer.
Today we are celebrating 90 years of coeducation at the College of Charleston…but for an educational institution founded in the 1700’s it is interesting to look at what prompted the longstanding male student body and faculty to change their minds and admit women… You all need to know the story of Carrie Pollitzer…Carrie was one of the three Pollitzer sisters of Charleston…Carrie, Mabel and Anita. All 3 of them went to Columbia University in New York because there was no higher education institution for them to attend in Charleston in the early 1900s. In April of 1917 the United States entered World War One. Thousands and thousands of men began to be shipped overseas. Carrie Pollitzer was running the first kindergarten program in Charleston in a carriage house behind her family home on Pitt. St. She had been concerned for a long time that the College of Charleston did not admit female students. So in light of the impact the war would have on student enrollment she though it an appropriate time to press her case with the College Administration. She took it upon herself to call on Dr. Randolph, the President of the College at that time. She implored him to allow women to be admitted. Dr. Randolph, who adamantly opposed coeducation refused to consider her plea. But Carrie pressed on asking for a concrete reason for continuing to not allow women. He finally said to her that the College couldn’t afford to admit women as they didn’t have the money to add a separate ladies room. Carrie took that as her call to arms. When asked how much building a rest room would cost he told her it would cost $3000…which was a fortune in 1917. He obviously thought that a sum that size would intimidate Carrie into dropping the subject of coeducation. Au contra ire…instead Carrie said…let me see what I can do. She spent that summer (before AC!) and fall going door to door asking for donations from friends and neighbors and by the end of the year she had raised $3000.
And in fall of 1918 ten women were enrolled at the College of Charleston…and now today all of us follow in their footsteps.