All Rise – The first female South Carolina Supreme Court Justice aims to uplift young women

Posted April 1, 2021

By Rachel Strieber
Carolina News & Reporter
University of South Carolina

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Retired South Carolina Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal calls that “Toal’s Ladder Principle,” powerful advice for young women she shared as she sat in her back yard last week and reflected on her monumental contributions to the legal field. 

“It’s mighty tempting if you’re in the minority and you’re the one singled out, and you get a little something in life, to kind of hold it close, because there’s not enough to go around,” said Toal, 77, who broke barriers as the first woman to serve as a South Carolina justice and chief justice. “But what you should be doing is leaving the ladder down and pulling those behind you up.” 

Born on August 11, 1943, Toal became active in civil and women’s rights at a young age. 

“This was a time of rigidly enforced, by law, segregation in the South, and certainly in South Carolina,” said Toal. “It affected everything that a person of color could do.”

Toal was 11 years old when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the historic Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case. This decision, which incorporated the South Carolina Briggs v. Elliott case out of Clarendon County, ruled racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. When she saw news of the decision – reported on the very new media called television –she questioned the negative press the decision was receiving. 

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