Suffragist, clubwoman. Evans was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the daughter of the wealthy manufacturer, banker, and legislator David S. Plume and his wife, Abbie Richardson. Little is known about her early education. In 1895 South Carolina Governor John Gary Evans met Emily Plume on a visit to New York. They courted for two years. On December 15, 1897, after Evans left the governor’s office, Emily Plume married him in Waterbury. The couple settled into a new home in Spartanburg and had one child, Emily Victoria.
Evans was active in activities at Spartanburg’s Episcopal Church of the Advent and in the local chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. In 1912 she and Helen G. Howland formed Spartanburg’s first women’s suffrage organization, the New Era Club. One of the organization’s first actions was to wire President-elect Woodrow Wilson with an appeal to support voting rights for women.
Evans was also a founding member of the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League, formed in Spartanburg on May 15, 1915. She was elected vice president and later president of the state organization. Evans served as the South Carolina delegate to the National Women’s Suffrage Association convention in Washington in 1915. Once Congress passed a suffrage amendment in 1917, Evans and other members of the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League vigorously lobbied lawmakers to vote for ratification, holding rallies in every congressional district. Ratification failed in the S.C. Senate in 1917, but South Carolina women received the right to vote in 1920 when Tennessee became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, making it federal law. (South Carolina did not formally ratify the Nineteenth Amendment until 1969.) Later in 1920 Evans was a founding member of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.
Evans was also active in efforts to improve working conditions for women and children in the state’s textile mills. In 1916 she became chair of the Committee on Social and Industrial Conditions of the South Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs. She lobbied for the eight-hour day, more stringent child labor laws, and enforcement of the state’s compulsory education laws. In addition, Evans was a president of Spartanburg’s Florence Crittenden Circle, an organization devoted to “the prevention and correction of wayward girls.”
At the end of her life, fearing the threat posed by the rise of the Nazi war machine, Evans lobbied South Carolina’s congressional delegation to support an alliance between Britain and the United States. She died on April 4, 1942, and was buried in her husband’s hometown of Edgefield.
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.