In this Sept. 8, 1918, photo, Elsie Blackwell of Greensboro, North Carolina, is featured on the front of the “Golf.” Course Guide of the Greensboro News & Record, for Women. But the prominent role she played in bringing women’s golf to North Carolina is almost lost. And all the information about what she and others did was archived in boxes in the South Carolina Public Archives in Columbia, said Eleanor Stephen, assistant curator for the Sunday Series. When it closed down in November 2016, Stephen figured there was no way to find out what happened to her records.
“My big problem was, I didn’t have a definitive answer,” Stephen said. “All I had was old newspapers. I didn’t have a good search function, so I had to use a lot of looking to find stuff.”
A few weeks after the archives closed, Stephen found a telegram from Carol Riewer, whose great-great-grandmother, Clara Daniels, got Blackwell to Georgia as part of the team that introduced women to golf in that state. Riewer, a resident of Beaufort, S.C., had searched the archives with the goal of finding more information about her great-great-grandmother, “so I thought, ‘This will be great for me!'” Stephen said.
The next day, Stephen discovered that the archives still had Blackwell’s telegram, at least the old versions. After the archives closed, Stephen got in touch with Jennifer Martin, an administrator at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History in Columbia. “She was able to find all this stuff for me,” Stephen said.
The national history book published in 1973 – the first book to feature a photo of the Garden City men’s golf team – includes a photo of Blackwell during her days as one of the players on the championship team at South Carolina.
But Blackwell’s role in women’s golf was probably even bigger, according to Stephen.
“She was the greatest all-sport athlete to come out of Georgia in the late 19th century,” Stephen said. “It was amazing to see how many women were even playing golf back then. As I’ve looked at the numbers, I see this woman who probably would have won a lot of championships.”