Harriet Keyserling has died at 88

This sad news suddenly took me by surprise. I just got this from Bud Ferillo a few minutes ago:


Former State Representative Harriet Hirschfeld Keyserling of Beaufort has died at the age of 88.

Harriet Keyserling grew up in New York City, graduated with honors from Barnard College, the women’s college ofColumbia University, majoring in Economics and Mathematics.

During World War II, she married Dr. Herbert Keyserling of Beaufort, SC and spent the next thirty years raising four children and  engaging in community activities, primarily in the field of the arts and social services, in Beaufort.

She  helped organize a Beaufort branch of the League of Women Voters, which led to her running for Beaufort County Council, to which she was elected in 1974, the first woman to serve there.  Two years later she was elected to the SC House of Representatives from House District 124, serving for 16 years.

In the legislature she was involved in many issues, including public education, nuclear waste, energy and the environment, the arts and women’s issues. She waged a successful five year campaign to eliminate filibusters from the House of Representatives. Keyserling served on the House Education Committee, Ways and Means Committee, Rules Committee, and chaired the Joint Committee on Cultural Affairs, the Joint Committee on Energy and the Women’s Caucus.

On the national level she served on the  National Conference of State Legislatures’ Executive Committee, its Task Force on the Arts, and co-chaired the Women Legislators Network.  She also served on an advisory committee on nuclear waste to the  U. S Congress Office of Technology, and on a panel of the National Endowment for the Arts .

After her retirement from public office in 1992, Keyserling served on the Southeast Compact for Low-level Nuclear Waste,  South Carolina Humanities Council, Spoleto Festival USA, S. C. Nature Conservancy and Penn Center.   She was recipient of the SC Arts Commission’s Elizabeth Verner O’Neill Award,  Order of the Palmetto,  Greenville News Legislator of the Year, and honored by the American Civil Liberties Union, the SC Nature Conservancy, SC libraries, SC Women’s Commission and  others.

She wrote a memoir about her experiences in politics,  “Against the Tide: One Woman’s Political Struggle,”  published by the  USC Press.

Keyserling is survived by her four children: Judy, Billy, Beth and Paul Keyserling.

A graveside service will be held on Monday, December 13 at 3:30 p.m. at Beth Israel Synagogue Cemetery in Beaufort. The family will receive friends at the Firehouse, at the corner of Craven and Scott Streets, following the service. Copeland Funeral Home is in charge.

Ms. Keyserling was a great lady who served her state with dedication and distinction. If you’ll recall, I was corresponding with her very recently, as she energetically recruited members for her “Women for Sheheen” movement. I had no idea she wasn’t in the best of health.

South Carolina will miss her.

3 thoughts on “Harriet Keyserling has died at 88

  1. Joanne

    I had no idea either. I was so sorry to see she had died. She certainly fought the good fight, as they say. I was particularly impressed that she had come forth to support Vincent and stayed so active in the campaign.

    Ironically, the article in The State reports that she left politics because it had become too party-oriented and that there was no cooperation.

    Voice in the wilderness at that time.

  2. Pingback: Harriet Keyserling, 1922 — 2010 – bdcbcl: Lists of Selected Local History Materials from the Beaufort District Collection

  3. Pingback: Harriet Keyserling, 1922 — 2010 – bdcbcl: Lists of Selected Local History Materials from the Beaufort District Collection

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