Thirteen years later, Nancy Mace can still be recalled as the first woman to graduate from The Citadel – an accomplishment that helped pave the way for more than 200 female graduates since then.
Mace has become a successful small businesswoman. Long interested in politics, Mace appeared at an Aiken County Republican Club luncheon on Thursday and, as expected, was asked: Does she anticipate a challenge to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., during the primary in 2014?
That idea started surfacing in recent weeks, Mace said, and she has started receiving calls about possible support of her candidacy if it emerges.
“I recently thought about considering public office,” she said. “That particular race was not on my radar.”
She would have a lot of research to do before jumping into a major statewide campaign, but Mace has clear concerns about Graham unlike the state’s Republican congressman
“He broke his tax pledge,” she said, “saying that tax revenue should be on the budget plan. But taxes are not a way to attack the economy during these times.”
In a broader view, Mace expressed frustration that too many Washington lawmakers of both parities are going behind closed doors. She’s amazed what lawmakers and consultants can get away with. They have no idea what’s going on away from Washington and are more focused on representing friends and special interests instead of their constituents.
“We should demand from our representatives that they need to walk the walk,” Mace said. “In 2016, we need to look at ourselves and the factions within our party. We’re at war with each other.’”
The message has to get out as effectively as the Democrats do it – relying on such techniques as social media, she said.
Following her address at the club meeting, Mace signed copies of her book, “In the Company of Men,” based on her experiences at The Citadel. She was not the first woman to attend the college. A young woman named Shannon Faulkner was enrolled accidentally by the admissions office. A Supreme Court decision also led to admitting women to any university receiving state funding.
By all accounts, Faulkner was not prepared for the resulting anger from many graduates and others, as well as the media attention. She only managed to stay a week.
Mace seemed an unlikely person to take up the challenge. An older brother and sister had gone to West Point, but Mace dropped out of high school as a sophomore, unaware of Attention Deficit Disorder issues that had not been diagnosed.
She tried out jobs over the next two years before enrolling at Trident Tech in North Charleston. Courses she took there enabled her to get her diploma, and soon she started thinking about The Citadel. Her father had graduated from the college and had gone on to a successful military career.
Mace applied and was accepted, but finally had to tell her father. He kept his advice limited, but also said not to call him if she decided to leave.
“He told me to walk home, which was 25 miles away,” Mace said to laughter from club members.
She was stunned to learn how demanding her first year at The Citadel would be, but she discovered that a sense of humor and patience were essential. Mace acknowledged she was there for what she considers selfish reasons – becoming successful and making her father proud.