Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Dr. Jane Bruce Guignard, 1876-1963
By Seth Barbee and Dalva Amer, students of Maggy Carmack, Presbyterian College, Clinton, South Carolina.
Member, South Carolina Equal Suffrage League; A founder and first Chairman, League of Women Voters of South Carolina.
Born October 30, 1876, in Aiken, South Carolina, Dr. Jane Bruce Guignard worked to better the lives of all South Carolinians, women and children particularly. Guignard was the daughter of planter and surveyor John Gabriel Guignard and Jane Bruce Salley Guignard. She was named for her mother, a planter's wife whom the younger Jane remembers caring for the family and the family's servants. Like her mother, Jane Guignard would spend her professional career caring of others, advocating for the health and well-being of her community from the elite among Columbia society to her poorest neighbors. Dr. Jane B. Guignard used her medical training to educate and be an advocate for the health and safety of women and children.
Guignard initially trained as a teacher. The family moved to the Columbia area in 1895 where Guignard would attend the Presbyterian College for Women. After that, she went on to Peabody Teachers College at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee graduating in 1896. However, a horse and carriage accident which took the life of her mother and left Jane severely injured changed the course of her life and career.
After Jane's recovery and with the financial support of her family, she moved to Philadelphia in 1900 to attend the Women's Medical College. Upon graduating in 1904, Guignard returned to Columbia to become one of the city's first female doctors. Her practice focused on obstetrics and pediatrics.
While Dr. Jane Bruce Guignard's career focused on advocating for women and children's' health care, this advocacy spilled over into advocating for greater rights for women in general. She was one of the leaders of the suffrage movement in her state. The History of Woman Suffrage stated that in 1906 there was “a small group of suffragists in Columbia with Dr. Jane Bruce Guignard president.” She remained active in the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League which was unsuccessful both in its effort to gain suffrage through state action and to persuade the state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. Nonetheless, when enfranchised by the federal amendment, she and other suffrage leaders founded the League of Women Voters of South Carolina with Dr. Guignard as its first chairman. Along with other former suffragists who were active in the LWV, she worked hard to get women to register and use their votes intelligently and to join the League. Eulalie Salley recalled their efforts, traveling the state over sandy roads by horse and buggy or in “a broken old Ford,” promoting organization and registration.
In 1920 Guignard opened her own small nursing home which included a maternity hospital. However, by 1930 this section had closed and Guignard worked with Columbia Hospital to provide obstetric care. As part of her effort to bring better women's health care to the community, Guignard established a training program for black midwives.
It is estimated that Guignard delivered over one thousand babies in Richland County over the course of her fifty-year medical career. Delivering babies in the poorer sections of Columbia, Guignard was reportedly shocked by the unsanitary living conditions. This led her to become director of the Columbia branch of the Social Hygiene Council. This organization was originally organized by the Federation of Women's Clubs for the purpose of developing social-hygiene educational programming and addressing the problem of venereal disease control. This work was done in conjunction with the South Carolina League of Women Voters.
Working through the League and the Federation of Women's Clubs, Guignard pushed for greater community services for women as well as the right of women to have a great voice within their communities. Although Guignard passed away in 1963, her legacy in South Carolina lives on through the Still Hopes retirement community which sits on the Guignard family's former plantation in Columbia.
Sanders Richardson Guignard, et al., Guignard Memoirs, Volume I: John Gabriel Guignard, 1832-1913: Recollections By His Son The Reverend Sanders Richardson Guignard (Columbia, SC: S.R. Guignard, Jr., 1996), 105; and Jane Guignard Curry, “Jane Bruce Guignard, M.D.: 1876-1963,” Journal of the South Carolina Medical Association 89, (January 1993): 31-34.
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage (1922), 6:579<. [LINK]
Mary L. Bryan, Proud Heritage: A History of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, 1920-1976, (Columbia, SC: League of Women Voters of South Carolina, 1977). p.10.
Giselle Roberts, “Guignard, Jane Bruce” South Carolina Encyclopedia, http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/guignard-jane-bruce/ accessed May 18, 2017.
“Public Health Institutes Held in Many Centers,” The Social Hygiene Bulletin (Volumes 8-9, 1921), 143.