Harriet Porcher Stoney Simons was born in Charleston in 1896 to a family that had long been active in the politics and culture of the city.
She was educated in Charleston and at boarding school in Philadelphia, before returning home to help her father as his secretary and driver. During this time she became the first woman in South Carolina to receive a driver's license. In 1917, she married Albert Simons who became a prominent local architect and preservationist. Throughout their marriage, they worked as a team to raise awareness and pass legislation to protect Charleston's buildings and culture.
Harriet once wrote that she "started at a tender age feeling responsible for the city of Charleston and its welfare," and the list of organizations and causes she supported is almost endless. In the late 1930's she worked with her sister to found a maternal welfare clinic which was one of the first in the South to serve African-American as well as white women. During the Great Depression, she led the Charleston Women's Relief Committee and was elected chair of the women's division of the Unemployment Relief Committee.
During World War II, while her husband and three of their four children were serving overseas, she chaired the Home Nursing Committee and was on the executive board of the Charleston branch of the Red Cross. After the war, she ran unsuccessfully for city council promising to "do my share of work for all members of the community, regardless of creed or color."
She was the founder and president of the Charleston League of Women Voters and later organized and headed the South Carolina League of Women Voters, and she led the campaign to allow women to serve on state juries in South Carolina.
When Harriet Simons died in 1971, she was much mourned by her husband, children, grandchildren, and the local community to which she devoted her life's work.