Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890 - 1920

Biography of Ellen Evans (Mrs. W. C.) Cathcart, 1869-1952

By April Akins, University Archivist, Lander University, Greenwood, South Carolina

Charter Member, Legislative Chair, and Congressional Chair of the Equal Suffrage League of South Carolina. Contributor of the passage on suffrage activities in South Carolina from 1900 to 1920 in I. H. Harper, The History of Woman Suffrage, 1922.

Ellen Evans Cathcart (Mrs. W. C. Cathcart) was born September 2, 1869, in Columbia, South Carolina to William Keils Evans and Eliza Denoon Hoagland Evans. She married William Clinton Cathcart in 1893. William, called "Clint," was the Chief of Police in Columbia, South Carolina, from October 1, 1907 through September 30, 1914. The couple had one daughter, Kate Evans Cathcart (Lindsay) born in 1898.

Ellen Evans Cathcart served in numerous volunteer and advocacy organizations in the state. When the Equal Suffrage League of South Carolina was established in 1914, she was a charter member.

Cathcart's support for woman suffrage expanded over a number of years. On October 17, 1915, at the state suffrage convention, she was elected to serve as the league's legislative chairman. She continued to serve in this role for six years. Later she also served as chair of the league's congressional committee.

In 1916 state suffragists focused on organization. Chairs were appointed in sixteen counties, with the goal of building support for woman suffrage in wards within cities and townships within counties. They secured a plank in the platform of the state Democratic Party calling for a woman suffrage amendment to be presented to votes in a referendum. They also canvassed state and national candidates on their views on woman suffrage.

Before the 1917 legislative session began, under the direction of Cathcart's legislative committee, all members were canvassed and classified as to their views on woman suffrage. As Cathcart later reported, "these were classified and only a few were tagged impossible." After the legislature convened, a group of women from many parts of the state lobbied lawmakers while wearing yellow "Votes for Women" badges. This helped to establish rapport and many maintained daily contact with lawmakers during the session. During the year woman suffrage gained endorsements from the State Federation of Labor, the state Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and the state Federation of Women's Clubs. In December a state "suffrage school" was held in Columbia under the direction of the National Woman Suffrage Association.

At the October 1917 state suffrage convention, league members voted to endorse the proposed amendment calling for prohibition, a national Food Administration, and a minimum wage for women. They also protested against any attempt to lower educational standards or to weaken laws safeguarding women and children. Significantly, they voted to endorse a federal woman suffrage amendment and began working toward that goal. In the Newberry Weekly Herald on December 11, 1917, Cathcart put out a call for action to the Newberry County residents to sign, clip and address a message to Hon. Benjamin R. Tillman, Hon. E. D. Smith or Hon. F. H. Dominick supporting the federal amendment. Though U.S. Senator Tillman was one of Senate's leading opponents of woman suffrage, in May 1918 he appointed, Ellen Cathcart as associate committeewoman on the Democratic National Committee.

In 1918, at Cathcart's initiative, the state Democratic Party was asked to approve a resolution stating that, if a 36th state had ratified the federal woman suffrage amendment in time, South Carolina women would be eligible to vote in the Democratic primary to be held in August. The measure failed. In addition, state suffragists were accused of being paid propagandists, an assertion they denied vigorously in the press.

At the 1918 state suffrage convention where Cathcart was once again re-elected as Legislative Chairman, the league declared itself in favor of the federal woman suffrage amendment as a war measure.

In 1919, South Carolina suffragists worked in cooperation with the NAWSA to gain support for ratification of the federal amendment. NAWSA contributed 10,000 pieces of literature, $1,700 dollars, and the services of a Miss Lola Trax who in five months organized forty counties to petition for ratification. At the 1919 state convention, Ellen Cathcart read a resolution on the death of Dr. Anna Howard Shaw and resolutions endorsing the Treaty of Peace and the League of Nations.

At the 1920 state convention held early in the year, suffragists looked back on their efforts even as they continued to call for ratification of the federal amendment -- which South Carolina steadfastly refused to do. As Legislative Chairman, Ellen Cathcart read the legislative report of the past five years. Also, as the Resolutions Committee chairman, she read the following statement thanking those South Carolina politicians who had supported the woman suffrage cause: "The State Equal Suffrage League tenders appreciation and thanks to the members of the General Assembly of South Carolina, who have fostered the cause ... among them Joseph E. McCullough, Greenville; A. E. Horton, Spartanburg; James A. Hoyt, Speaker of the House; Senators J. L. Sherard , Anderson; Neils Christensen, Beaufort; Allan Johnston, Newberry; Legrande Walker, Georgetown; T. C. Duncan, Union, and Representative Shelor, Oconee. We commend William P. Pollock who spoke and voted in the U. S. Senate for the Federal Suffrage Amendment, for his loyalty to his convictions and his belief in true democracy."

Ellen died August 26, 1952, at the age of 82, and is buried along with her husband in the Elmwood Memorial Gardens, in Columbia South Carolina.


Louise Pettus Archives and Special Collections, Winthrop University, "Ellen Evans Cathcart Papers - Accession 238 - M111 (143)". Finding Aid 204.


Ellen Evans Cathcart. accessed 3 July 2018.

William Clinton Cathcart. accessed 3 July 2018.

"Ellen Evans Cathcart Papers - Accession 238 - M111 (143)." Louise Pettus Archives and Special Collections, Winthrop University, Finding Aid 204. This collection houses materials of Mrs. Cathcart's from 1911 - 1952.

Antoinette Elizabeth Taylor, "South Carolina and the Enfranchisement of Women: The Later Years." (1979). The South Carolina Historical Magazine,80(4). Retrieved from

"Do You Favor Equal Suffrage? If So, Write." Newberry Weekly Herald. Newberry, South Carolina. December 11, 1917, (accessed 3 July 2018).

Harper, I. H. (1922). The History of Woman Suffrage in Six Volumes. National American Woman Suffrage Association, pp.579 - 584. accessed 3 July 2018.

Image from: Louise Pettus Archives and Special Collections, Winthrop University, "Ellen Evans Cathcart Papers - Accession 238 - M111 (143)". Finding Aid 204.

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