Appalachian Travels: The Diary of Olive Dame Campbell

Appalachian Travels: The Diary of Olive Dame Campbell

Appalachian Travels: The Diary of Olive Dame Campbell

Appalachian Travels: The Diary of Olive Dame Campbell

Synopsis

In 1908 and 1909, noted social reformer and "songcatcher" Olive Dame Campbell traveled with her husband, John C. Campbell, through the Southern Highlands region of Appalachia to survey the social and economic conditions in mountain communities. Throughout the journey, Olive kept a detailed diary offering a vivid, entertaining, and personal account of the places the couple visited, the people they met, and the mountain cultures they encountered. Although John C. Campbells book, The Southern Highlander and His Homeland, is cited by nearly every scholar writing about the region, little has been published about the Campbells themselves and their role in the sociological, educational, and cultural history of Appalachia. In this critical edition, Elizabeth McCutchen Williams makes Olives diary widely accessible to scholars and students for the first time. Appalachian Travels only offers an invaluable account of mountain society at the turn of the twentieth century.

Excerpt

Olive Dame Campbell is generally remembered as the founder of the John C. Campbell Folk School or as a ballad collector—a “songcatcher”—but she also played a key role as a social reformer at the turn of the century in Appalachia. On a trip with her husband, John C. Campbell, through the Southern Highlands region to survey social and economic situations in mountain communities, she unearthed some of the old folk songs preserved by women perpetuating the traditions of their ancestors. This discovery inspired her to collect and document both the music and the lyrics of old ballads that had their roots in England and Scotland. Thus Olive Dame Campbell was a songcatcher in the vernacular of the mountaineers.

She is less well known for her part in the social and educational history of Appalachia. However, for the better part of her life she was one of the leading women social reformers of the period and part of the Progressive movement in America. Although much of the work done by women in establishing craft workshops and cottage industries in the mountains took place in the 1920s—the John C. Campbell Folk School was opened in 1925—the Campbells and the Southern Mountain Workers Conference, which they were instrumental in founding, had a significant impact on the movement. Both of them saw a fundamental connection be-

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