Mamie Garvin Fields was an educator and community activist born on August 13, 1888, in Charleston, the daughter of George Garvin and Rebecca Bellinger. She began attending school at age three at Miss Anna Eliza Izzard’s School, which was run by her cousin. She later attended the “public” Shaw school, named for the commander of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, Robert Gould Shaw. She attended high school and college at Claflin College, where she received her licentiate of instruction, which made her eligible to teach, and a diploma in domestic science.
Fields wanted to be a missionary but her parents wanted her to pursue a career in teaching. She began teaching in the black schools in rural South Carolina in 1908. In 1909, Garvin became one of the first African American teachers hired to teach in the county’s public schools. She taught at the Humbert Wood Elementary School and at Miller Hill School, Johns Island, S.C., where she served as principal for two years.
Fields relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina after getting married. The couple eventually moved back to Charleston around the time of World War I, then moved to New York around 1923 after the employment situation for blacks in Charleston deteriorated. However, by 1926, they were again living in Charleston where Fields returned to full-time teaching. Fields was a pioneer in adult and education, organizing classes on James and Johns Islands in the early 1920s and developing the first vacation bible school for migrant workers in Charleston during the Depression. She retired in 1943.
She was a long-standing member of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, Inc. (NACWC) and joined the City of Charleston Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs in 1916; she co-founded the Modern Priscilla Club of Charleston in 1927; served as president of the South Carolina Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (SCFCWC) from 1958 to 1964; and functioned as superintendent of Wilkinson Home for Girls, Cayce, S.C. from 1960 to 1963. Mamie Garvin Fields died in 1987.