Award Winning Essay by Evelyn Gandy (1938)

Among the holdings of The University of Southern Mississippi’s Special Collections are the extensive papers of Evelyn Gandy (1920-2007), heralded as “the most successful woman in the history of Mississippi politics” upon her recent election to the Mississippi Hall of Fame. During the thirty-six years of her career, Gandy became the first woman to hold the offices of Assistant Attorney General (1959), State Treasurer (1959-1963), Commissioner of Public Welfare (1964-1967), Commissioner of Insurance (1972-1976) and, finally, Lieutenant Governor (1976-1980). After completing her pre-legal coursework at the State Teachers College/Mississippi Southern College (now The University of Southern Mississippi), Gandy became the only female in her graduating class at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Soon after graduation in 1943, she was elected to the Mississippi State Legislature (1948-1952).

The earliest materials in the Gandy papers date from her teenage years and provide a glimpse of a blossoming politician mature beyond her years. One document in particular stands out: her essay, “The Essentials of Good Citizenship”, which earned her first place in a Kiwanis Club contest her senior year at Hattiesburg High in 1938. Sponsored by the Hattiesburg Kiwanis chapter, the contest sought “to promote aggressive, serviceable, and efficient citizenship” and earned the winner a fifty-dollar scholarship to State Teachers College or to Mississippi Woman’s College, now respectively The University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University. The essay proved to be foundational in her later political life, reflecting her beliefs—anchored in both nationalism and the religious wing of progressivism—by which she would steer her political course over the next forty years.

An introduction to the essay appears with its full text in the Southern Quarterly Winter 2017 Issue. The original essay is part of the M367 Evelyn Gandy Papers housed in USM Special Collections.

For more information about the Evelyn Gandy Papers or this item, contact Lorraine Stuart at  or 601.266.4117.

Text by Lorraine Stuart, Head of Special Collections/Curator of Historical Manuscripts and Archives