Philanthropist. Snowden was born in Charleston on September 10, 1819, the daughter of Joseph Yates and Elizabeth Saylor. Her father, who ran a successful cooperage, died in 1821, and Snowden’s mother moved the family to Philadelphia for five years. After returning to South Carolina, Snowden attended a school at Barhamville, near Columbia, run by Dr. Elias Marks. As a young woman she worked with her brother, Dr. William B. Yates, on the first of her many philanthropic ventures, a home where the poor could receive an education and also be trained for work as sailors. She married Dr. William Snowden in 1857, but he died in the Civil War. They had two children, including the future historian Yates Snowden.
Snowden was a close acquaintance of John C. Calhoun. After he died, she organized the Ladies’ Calhoun Monument Association in Charleston in 1854. By 1861 the organization had raised nearly $40,000. Snowden protected the funds during the Civil War, even sewing them into the skirt she was wearing when she fled Columbia in February 1865. It was not until April 1887, however, that a monument to Calhoun was finally erected on Marion Square in Charleston.
Snowden was involved in many charitable activities to help Confederate soldiers. In July 1861 she founded the Soldiers Relief Association of Charleston to provide clothing and hospital stores to the men at the front. After Second Manassas, she traveled to Warrenton, Virginia, near the battlefield, to tend the wounded. Snowden took refuge in Columbia during the siege of Charleston. When Columbia fell, she remained to nurse hundreds of soldiers until they were well enough to return to their homes.
Late in 1865 Snowden returned to Charleston and continued her work for Confederate soldiers. In 1866 she formed the Ladies Memorial Association of Charleston, widely considered to be the first of hundreds of such organizations that were formed in the South after the Civil War to commemorate the Confederate dead. She was also instrumental in returning the remains of South Carolina soldiers who were interred at battlefields in other states. The Ladies Memorial Association established May 10 as Memorial Day and erected one of the first monuments in the South to the Confederate dead at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.
Snowden helped the living as well as the dead in the years after the Civil War. As she cared for wounded soldiers during the war, she became concerned about the fate of their families. In 1867, along with her sister Isabella, Snowden founded the Home for the Mothers, Widows, and Daughters of Confederate Soldiers (usually called simply the Confederate Home) in Charleston, the first of its kind in the southern states. Snowden and her sister mortgaged their own house to pay the first year’s rent for the building on Broad Street. At the home, housing was provided for poor female dependents of Confederate soldiers, and a school was established for their children. Snowden served as president of the board of control of the home until her death in Charleston on February 23, 1898.
Historical Sketch of the Confederate Home and College, Charleston, South Carolina, 1867–1921. Charleston, S.C.: Walker, Evans & Cogswell, [1921?].
Holmes, James G., ed. Memorials to the Memory of Mrs. Mary Amarinthia Snowden Offered by Societies, Associations, and Confederate Camps. Charleston, S.C.: Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1898.
Snowden, Mary Amarinthia Yates. Papers. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.