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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mabel Pollitzer, June 16, 1974. Interview G-0047-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Susan Pringle Frost as prominent citizen and women's leader

Pollitzer describes Susan Pringle Frost, a prominent citizen of Charleston, South Carolina, and a leader in the local women's suffrage movement. According to Pollitzer, Frost was a woman who had a deep appreciation for history and as a result she helped to found the Preservation Society. In addition, Pollitzer remembers Frost as a gracious hostess and a profoundly religious woman. In 1913, when Alice Paul severed ties with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, it was Frost, according to Pollitzer, who organized Charleston suffragists around the new push for a national amendment for women's suffrage.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mabel Pollitzer, June 16, 1974. Interview G-0047-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Miss Pollitzer, I would like for you, if you can remember, to tell a little bit about the background of Susan Pringle Frost. The kind of thing, perhaps, that wouldn't appear in brief newspaper accounts. Simply tell about significant accomplishments and this sort of thing.
To me Miss Susan Pringle Frost was one of the most remarkable women who ever lived in Charleston. She came from a very aristocratic family. I remember so well, Miss Sue and her two sisters, Miss Mary and also or Rebecca Motto Frost. Miss Sue and Miss Mary lived together. When I first met them they lived at 4 Logan Street, then later they moved to the Miles Brewton home, and that, I understand, was occupied by the revolutionary soldiers. And that home, to Miss Frost, was as dear as any precious possession or more so. In the very early years she studied stenography and became court stenographer. Her sister Mary, to support herself, had a private school mostly of the elementary grades. Miss Rebe moved north to be with the DuPonts in New Jersey. Miss Frost, as I say, after studying for the business world, was court stenographer. And as I recollect was told she was the first woman who was brave enough, you might say, to enter what was called a man's field. She remained court stenographer for years. Loving Charleston as she did, she tried to preserve the heritage and the architecture and other things of Charleston. And even though buildings were most dilapidated and run down, she, with her far seeing mind, could see the potentiality of workingto save them for white residents.* * Miss Sue did so much for the Colored (Negro) folks; they loved her. So much of the restoration of Tradd Street is due to Miss Frost. She was one of the founders, and perhaps the founder - I cannot be sure - of the Preservation Society. They met in what is now one of the museum houses on Church Street, the Heyward-Washington House.
As a person, what was she like, according to your recollection? Her personality.
She was outgoing. She spoke, I would say, quite frankly and freely always. We were really very very friendly. I just loved her. I felt she was a woman to be admired. Deeply religious. I remember on one occasion I was at her house when she had a servant who brought a glass of water to her. And the servant thoughtlessly put the glass of water on the Bible. Miss Frost said to her, calling her by her name - I'll say Charlotte - "Charlotte, you know you should never desecrate a Bible by putting a glass of water on it." She was very serious about that. That Bible was never to have anything that would hurt or harm it in appearance in any way. Then I remember another incident. It was a midday meal. I was a guest. I don't know whether it was lunch or dinner. At her house, the Pringle house. *1 *1 Known today as the Miles-Brewton House, a Charleston showplace. We were seated at the table. Everything was very simple, but very, very nice. Miss Frost, at that time, had opened the house to paying guests, as she called them. The money was always needed, all through her life. We were seated at the table and the servant brought her some mail. And as she scanned the envelopes she saw bills. And she said, to her sister Mary, "Why must I always have to look at bills when we're enjoying a nice little repast?" Then she looked at one more and opened it. It wasn't a bill. It was a check for $1,000 from a relative named Frost - I don't remember his name. And with that she said "Oh, Mary, a gift. I was too quick in saying what I did." With that she fell down on her knees and offered a prayer of thanks. It was a very beautiful, spiritual experience for me. Of course I went through the house many times. It was all very lovely; with antique And she came around to our house many times. Her sister Mary was also generous and just darling. Once Mother admired a lovely scarf she wore. And she said "Oh, Mrs. Pollitzer, I am so glad you like it, that you expressed your pleasure in seeing it." And with that she took it off and said "It is yours." Mama said "Oh no. You aren't a Mexican or a Spaniard. If you admire a thing there they always give it to you, but this is Charleston." And she said "Even so, it's yours. I'm glad you love it." They were just kind people. I just thought they were lovely. Now Miss Frost - oh, I cannot tell you exactly the year, but it was around the 1913s. It may have been before. But it was in 1913 when Alice Paul severed her connection with the National American Woman Suffrage Association. I do not know how this information came to Miss Sue, but she was an ardent suffragist and she felt surely that the Susan B. Anthony amendment should be passed and that it should be federal and not according to the ideas of state by state as was thought by Carrie Chapman Catt. She called a meeting at No. 4 Logan Street.