The City Magazine Since 1975

Lady’s First

Lady’s First
Nancy Stevenson made South Carolina history as lieutenant governor

On November 7, 1978, Charleston’s own Nancy Stevenson was elected lieutenant governor, becoming the first woman in South Carolina to hold a statewide office. Born Ferdinan Backer in New York in June 1928, “Nancy” came to the Lowcountry when her mother, Fernanda Legare, was widowed in 1932. 

Stevenson attended Ashley Hall, graduated from Smith College, married a Norwegian diplomat, lived abroad, and wrote for New York news-papers. Divorcing, returning to Charleston, and marrying attorney and state legislator Norman Stevenson, she became a leader in the local preservation movement and supporter of the arts, even co-authoring mystery novels.

To help gain public funding for historic preservation, she ran for and was elected to the State House in 1974 and 1976, ending her elected career as Governor Richard Riley’s lieutenant governor. Afterward, she worked for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and the presidential bid of Ernest Hollings. Unsuccessful in her own bid to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1984, she moved to Washington, D.C., and opened a modern art gallery. She died May 31, 2001.