Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Emily Mansfield Plume (Mrs. John Gary) Evans, 1865-1942
By April Akins, University Archivist, Lander University, Greenwood, South Carolina
Founder of the New Era Club, Spartanburg, South Carolina's first suffrage club. A founding member, vice president, and president of the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League. Delegate to the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Founding member of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina
Emily Mansfield Plume Evans was born May 9, 1865 in Newark, New Jersey, to the Honorable David Scott Plume and Abby Cornelia Richardson Plume. She spent her childhood in Waterbury, Connecticut. Emily married a former governor of South Carolina, John Gary Evans, whom she met while he was on a visit to New York in 1895. After a two-year courtship, they were wed on December 17, 1897. The couple had one daughter, Emily Victoria Evans Knutson.
After marrying in Waterbury, John and Emily Evans settled in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In 1901, the couple moved into their home in the Converse Heights neighborhood (716 Otis Blvd, Spartanburg), where they lived until their deaths in 1942. This Neo-Classical Revival residence is known as the Evans-Russell house and was listed in the National Register on March 21, 2007.
Emily was an active member of the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Spartanburg. She was also active in the local chapter of the General Federation of Women's Clubs.
In 1912, Emily Evans and Helen G. Howland formed Spartanburg's first woman suffrage organization, the New Era Club. The club's first action was to wire President-elect Woodrow Wilson with an appeal to support voting rights for women. The objective of the club was "to stimulate interest in civic affairs and to advance the industrial, legal and educational rights of women and children." (Taylor)
On January 29, 1914, the Era Club became the state's only avowed suffrage club, announcing its affiliation with the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Club members elected Emily Evans as president. She later became a founding member of the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League that was formed at the Kennedy Library in Spartanburg in May of 1914. At this meeting she was elected first vice president of the state league. Later she became president.
In 1915 Emily Evans served as a South Carolina delegate to the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in Washington. After Congress approved the federal woman suffrage amendment in 1919, Emily Evans was one of the South Carolina suffragists who lobbied lawmakers in her state to vote for ratification.
Emily Evans was active in efforts to improve working conditions for women and children in her state's textile mills. She became chair of the Committee on Social and Industrial Conditions of the South Carolina Federation of Women's Clubs in 1916. She lobbied for eight-hour work days, more stringent child labor laws, and enforcement of the state's compulsory education laws. She was president of the Spartanburg's Florence Crittenden Circle, an organization dedicated to preventing and correcting "waywardness" in girls.
In 1920, Emily Evans was a founding member of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.
Emily Evans's only daughter passed away July 22, 1931 in Stockholm, Sweden, leaving behind her husband, Dr. Dag Knutson and their three children: Johann Evans, twins Rolf Gary and Eva Plume Knutson. The loss of her only daughter was something that Emily never fully recovered from. After her daughter's death, Emily and her husband continued to visit their grandchildren in Sweden every year until their death.
Emily Evans died on April 4, 1942, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, two months before her husband passed away. They are buried in the Edgefield Village Cemetery in Edgefield, South Carolina.
Elhassani, Joyce. "Emily Plume Evans." In The Lives They Lived: A Look at Women in the History of Spartanburg, edited by Linda Powers Bilanchone. Spartanburg, S.C.: Spartanburg Sesquicentennial Focus on Women Committee, 1981.
Emily Plume Evans. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/90057274/emily-evans. accessed 3 July 2018.
Evans - Russell House, Spartanburg, South Carolina (716 Otis Blvd). National Register Properties in South Carolina. South Carolina Department of Archives and History. http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/spartanburg/S10817742059/index.htm. accessed 3 July 2018.
Greene, M. H. (8 May 1951). "Mrs. Greene Tells Story of Emily Victoria Evans, Only Daughter of Gov. and Mrs. John Gary Evans." Index Journal. Accessed on newspapers.com 27 July 2018.
Harper, I. H. (1922). The History of Woman Suffrage in Six Volumes. National American Woman Suffrage Association, pp.579 - 584. https://books.google.com/books/about/History_of_Woman_Suffrage_1900_1920.html?id=rIoEAAAAYAAJ. accessed 3 July 2018.
Taylor, Antoinette Elizabeth, "South Carolina and the Enfranchisement of Women: The Later Years" (1979). The South Carolina Historical Magazine,80(4). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27567577.
Walker, Melissa. (2016). Evans, Emily Plume, South Carolina Encyclopedia. University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies. http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/evans-emily-plume/. accessed 3 July 2018.