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Edith Mitchell Dabbs papers

Identifier: SCL-MS-8243

The papers of Edith .Mitchell Dabbs (1906-1991) span the years 1791 to 1997 but the bulk of the papers date 1920 to 1980. Included in the collection are correspondence, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and notes. Units of materials reflect Dabbs' interest in the history of Penn School on St. Helena Island, and her desire to see it publicized.

The primary focus of the collection is material compiled about Penn School and St. Helena Island by Dabbs. A native South Carolinian, Dabbs began her association with the school in 1960 when her husband, James McBride Dabbs (1896-1970), became a trustee of Penn Community Services, Inc. During trips to the island for meetings, Edith spent her time with the people who lived there, learning about them, the island, and the school. After James' death, Edith was made an honorary trustee and became custodian of the school's archive. Three publications resulted from Dabbs' appreciation of the island: Walking Tall (1964), Face of an. Island, (1970) , and Sea Island Diary (1983). Most of the material in the collection pertains to her research for the latter book. Two later additions to the collection contain more research materials for her books as well as personal correspondence with family and friends, especially letters of condolence on the death ofJamesin May 1970.

Edith Mitchell graduated from Coker College in 1929 and taught in various South Carolina high schools. After marrying James Dabbs in 1935, she became involved with raising a family and helping with the Dabbs plantation, Rip Raps, at Mayesville nea1· Sumter. James Dabbs, head of the English Department at Coker College, became well known in the literary world for his writings on the South and in the civil rights world through his work as president of the Southern Regional Council Like James, Edith held strong convictions about the rights of the under-privileged and the importance of the civil rights movement Edith gave her time to different organizations, such as Church Women United, and she was made a life member of the Southern Regional Council.

The collection is arranged in three series: papers, persons, and topical. The first series includes Dabb's personal correspondence, correspondence about and drafts of her publications, and early writings. The persons series contains notes and correspondence regarding St. Helena Island residents or information about the island. Under topical are Dabbs' research notes on Beaufort, Penn School, and St. Helena Island for Sea Island Diary. There is also a small card file drawer with additional topical research notes. Seven uncut copies of Home of the Freed (1926) by Rossa Cooley and an undated oversize photograph taken at Penn Community Services, Inc. accompany the collection. The additional material is arranged by personal correspondence and photographs, research materials and publication/promotion correspondence for Face of an Island, and research and photographs for Sea Island Diary.


  • 1791 - 1991
  • Majority of material found within 1920 - 1980


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All rights reside with creator. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact The South Caroliniana Library.


8.75 Linear Feet (7 cartons)