The commission’s mission was to promote equal opportunity and improve the status of women in the state by identifying problems and recommending ways to eliminate discriminatory practices.
The governor’s Commission on Women was established in 1971. Governor John West appointed the first seven commissioners, and in 1972 federal funding provided for an executive director. However, there was no state funding until 1974, when $10,000 was appropriated. The commission’s mission was to promote equal opportunity and improve the status of women in the state by identifying problems and recommending ways to eliminate discriminatory practices. The first project, which studied female employment practices in state agencies, showed that women were disproportionately clustered in low-paying jobs. A Legal Guide for Women was prepared in 1975, giving information on citizenship, credit and finance, education, employment, health, marriage, divorce, parental rights, social security, and wills and estates. Under the leadership of chairperson Barbara Moxon, a major effort was made to get more South Carolina women appointed to public boards and commissions. The first staff member was hired in 1979, and the commission gained authority to receive and disburse grants and to disseminate materials on the rights, responsibilities, and status of women.
From 1987 to 1999 the work of the commission grew to include Women of Achievement awards and developing a Women’s History Month annual celebration. In 1999 the commission made domestic violence prevention, women’s health issues, and expanded female participation in government its new priorities. The commission works closely with the governor’s office and was funded out of its budget until 2003, when Governor Mark Sanford vetoed funding for the commission. It remained a small organization and sponsored projects in cooperation with other state agencies. The staff also worked to pass legislation that affects the status and health of women. Major concerns included South Carolina’s low rank in the number of elected women officeholders and high rank in number of domestic violence cases.