"God held the torch that brought the old house down": Class, gender, and the built environment of the Appalachian Kentucky social settlement movement, 1880s-1930s

Karen Elaine Hudson, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Beginning in the mid-1880s a number of organizations and individuals from outside Appalachia engaged in remedial, philanthropic, benevolent, or "uplifting" activity designed to integrate the region and its people more fully into the nation without mountain families having to experience what the reformers perceived were the "negative" consequences of rapid industrialization. There has been increasing debate about the ideological underpinnings and long term effect of the Appalachian reform movement. While some accounts are affirming, a number of scholars have begun to question the motivations, methods, and effect of the movement's leaders--many of whom were educated, middle-class women from outside the region. What most of these disparate works have in common is a reliance on the written records of a few leaders and institutions. This bias has often lead to an oversimplification of the role of gender and, in many cases, a virtual dismissal of the experience of Appalachians. The reformers frequently attempted to "uplift" mountain families by suggesting changes in architectural design, agricultural practices, foodways, housekeeping, and sanitation. While these lessons were often taught in the classroom, one of the most popular tools employed by the reform workers was the construction of "model" landscapes--homes, kitchens, gardens, privies, barns, etc. Tours of the models were offered to mountain families who visited the institutions in hope that they would be compelled to reproduce them in their own homes. Through a folkloristic analysis of the models offered by the reformers as well as the homes of the mountain families who were supposed to be the recipients of their lessons, this study attempts to reveal a more democratic history of the movement, one that includes the experience of a variety of reformers as well as the mountaineer.

Subject Area

Architecture|Folklore|American studies

Recommended Citation

Hudson, Karen Elaine, ""God held the torch that brought the old house down": Class, gender, and the built environment of the Appalachian Kentucky social settlement movement, 1880s-1930s" (1995). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9543091.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9543091

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