Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel's Corps of Cadets in 1999, is taking issue with how Shannon Faulkner recently characterized her time at South Carolina's military college.

Faulkner, who became the first woman to try to enter the Corps of Cadets in August 1995, returned to the school Saturday in her first invited public appearance there.

"I enjoyed being a member of The Citadel family. I do consider myself a Citadel alumni," she said at a symposium on the life and legacy of the late South Carolina novelist Pat Conroy. "This is my school as much as anybody else's. I won’t talk badly about the school and what it represents because I believe in it." 

Faulkner's historic time at the school was a short one. She withdrew six days after her enrollment, citing stress and outside pressures.

Mace, now a Republican state lawmaker representing Berkeley and Charleston counties, said Faulkner did not earn the right to call herself a graduate of The Citadel.

"She doesn't wear The Ring because she didn't earn it," Mace wrote on her Facebook page. "There is no edification or achievement in her failure."

Faulkner challenged the school's male-only admissions policy in a heated and public legal battle that lasted two years. 

The Citadel's Board of Visitors in 1996 would eliminate its males-only admissions rule after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Virginia Military Institute — another all-male, state-supported military college — must admit women or refuse public money.

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That fall, Mace would become one of four women to enroll at The Citadel. 

"If it hadn't been for me, (then) Nancy Mace and Petra (Lovetinska Seipel) and the other two young ladies who joined them that year after me wouldn't have been invited in," Faulkner said Saturday.

Mace pushed back on Faulkner's claim, saying she earned her time at The Citadel on her own merits.

"I had to apply and gain legitimate acceptance under their rules. And when I got in, I graduated, even with the threats on my life and my family," Mace wrote. 

She continued, "Why does she think she can assume credit for my and others success where she failed? She can’t even begin to comprehend what myself and hundreds of other women went through to earn the ring. We wear the ring because we earned it."

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.