Belizant A. Moorer (1876-1947) served as one of the first female members of Charleston City Council alongside Clelia P. McGowan from 1924-1927. She and McGowan ran on the aldermanic ticket of Thomas P. Stoney, a member of the “Broad Street Ring” representing Charleston’s elite. Stoney sought to appeal to newly enfranchised female voters in order to unseat his political rival, the populist Mayor John P. Grace.[i]
A lifelong member of Citadel Square Baptist Church, Mrs. Moorer was a decidedly conservative force in Charleston society. When first approached to join Stoney’s ticket, she and her husband, A.J. Moorer, initially rejected the idea. After much prayer and consideration, however, they decided that it was “the right thing to do.” Mrs. Moorer believed that women’s suffrage came when it did so women could offer a practical, steadying influence to male leaders who needed help “finding new paths” forward. She believed that Charleston had strayed from the conservative ideals of South Carolina and considered it her duty to guide the city “back to the mother state.”[ii]
During this time, Charleston was rife with prostitution and illegal drinking establishments. In fact, one of the leading operators of blind tigers in Charleston, the notorious Vincent Chicco, served as an alderman on City Council from 1912-1928. Mayor John P. Grace, an Irish Catholic who represented the immigrant, working-class faction in Charleston, tolerated prostitution and blind tigers as these forces were widely considered an inescapable part of the fabric of Charleston. Alternatively, Thomas P. Stoney, held progressive ideals that championed moral, social, and political reform. He was also a staunch supporter of prohibition and made it his mission to root out the police corruption that allowed blind tigers to operate with impunity. Ultimately, Stoney’s ability to appeal to the progressive sentiments held by many of Charleston’s leading women, along with the support of the elite “Broad Street Ring,” led to Grace’s defeat by a margin of 733 votes.[iii]
For her part, as a member of City Council representing Ward 11, Belizant Moorer proved the quiet, practical influence she promised. During her single term, Moorer served on committees for Sanitary Matters, Lighting the City, and City Hall, Clocks, and Chimes. She as also served as the chairperson of the Committee on Pleasure Grounds. She and Clelia McGowan each served one four-year term before returning their attention to charitable community work.
Schultz, Rebecca L., “Belizant Moorer: The Practical Influence of a Woman on City Council, 1924-1927,” City of Charleston Records Management Division, 6 June 2022, https://www.charleston-sc.gov/182/Records-Management-Division.
[i] Fraser, Walter J., Jr., Charleston! Charleston! The History of a Southern City, (Columbia, S.C: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 370.
[ii] “Mrs. McGowan and Mrs. Moorer Will Serve City Devotedly,” The Charleston Evening Post. (Charleston, South Carolina), 11 August 1923: 6.
[iii] Fraser, Charleston! Charleston! The History of a Southern City, 356-357; 368-370.