In 1867, shortly after the end of the Civil War, Rachel Crane Mather, a Boston schoolteacher, arrived in Beaufort, SC. She came with the goal of educating South Carolina’s newly-freed female African-Americans. She created the Mather School, a boarding school that was financially supported by the Woman’s American Baptist Home Mission Society. Initially, the school catered to elementary-aged girls, but by 1910, high school grades were added, and by the 1950’s it became a junior college, which included males and females. When Mather operated as a boarding school, female students came from across the nation and from Africa and Honduras. For more than 100 years, Mather School served Black families. The final class graduated in 1968 and the property of the Mather School was transferred to the Technical College of the Lowcountry.
Some things to consider: Rachel Crane Mather opened Mather School in 1867 during Reconstruction and the Port Royal Experiment. Many of our great colleges and universities did not admit women for decades and in some cases for over a century. When the Mather School closed in 1969 and the campus became home to what is now The Technical College of the Lowcountry and we slowly begun to lose our community knowledge of this important institution.
Graduates of Mather still gather every year to celebrate its founding. There is also a Mather Museum and Interpretive Center in Beaufort, SC. The museum is located in the school’s former library, on the campus of the Technical College of the Lowcountry. Mather will always hold a special place in my heart. My great-grandmother was a 1909 graduate of the school. My family donated her diploma to the museum. Currently, it is the oldest diploma in the museum’s possession.