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This thesis aspires to chronicle the life work and times of a remarkable woman, Mary Elizabeth Frayser. Born during Reconstruction, Frayser, a stanch daughter of the South, watched and participated in the great changes taking place in the lives of women and in the nation. After the Civil War, economic necessity forced many upper and middle class women to become wage earners. Frayser chose teaching because of an increasing interest and commitment to public education in the south. Not satisfied with just teaching, she sought to improve the circumstances of both teachers and students.

Women's leadership in education, community service, and social reform has been vital throughout the twentieth century. Frayser was such a leader. With the assistance of other teachers, she was able to establish a Richmond Teacher's Association and became its first vice-president. She served as chairman of a committee of six women teachers who successfully lobbied the Virginia legislature for a teachers' pension. These women were the first female lobbyists in Virginia.

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Frayser's parents had been active leaders in business, as well as, social, civic, and church work. Predisposed by this heritage and having considerable skills, interests, and talents of her own, Mary Frayser seized opportunities to deal with social issues in new ways. Leadership manifests itself through activity aimed at bringing about change in an organization, institution, or social system in order to enhance people's lives.

Change is not brought about single-handedly; one needs to develop a network of like-minded people and evolve a collective effort. A master at getting club women interested in the various areas she felt needed to be changed, Frayser then enlisted their help to effect the changes. Her beauty, unflagging energy, and charm were great assets in helping her influence people. To channel other people's actions to bring about change within the existing structure was probably one of Frayser's greatest abilities.

A well informed activist, Frayser became deeply involved in many facets of progressive reform. Child labor legislation, education, recreation, feminism, world peace, and race relations were all part of her social agenda. Experience frequently provided an impetus for her interests. After going into the homes of mill workers and finding a deplorable lack

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of reading material, Frayser fought for many years to secure funding for public libraries in South Carolina. She agreed with Henry Ward Beecher, who wrote, "a library is not a luxury. It is one of the necessities of a full life."1

Her work in rural communities among whites and blacks living within the system of segregation led her to work for better understanding and relations between the races. Frayser's passion for social change had been planted in part by her early home environment, but her work in the settlement houses of New York, her teaching, and her experiences among mill workers and their families in South Carolina brought her desire into sharper focus. The rural research she conducted for Clemson College gave her a clearer picture of what needed to be done and her own ingenuity and ability to draw people into the work enabled Frayser to accomplish a formidable amount of social change in her lifetime. With others social work might be an occasional foray into the public arena, but for Mary Elizabeth Frayser, it was her life. She devoted her entire life and being to the cause of social justice for the less fortunate within her sphere of influence, particularly in her beloved South Carolina.

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1Third Annual South Carolina Library Board Report. 1 July 1945-30 June 1946, 3.