Scholars of southern Appalachia have typically centered their research on the contributions and experiences of men, particularly white men. But a new collection of essays, co-edited by a history professor at West Virginia University, is giving a voice to the different women who have proudly called the mountains their home.
In “Women of the Mountain South: Identity, Work, and Activism,” Connie Park Rice, Ph.D., documents the experiences and histories of women who helped to shape Appalachia. Many available texts, she said, either focus on women as a homogenous whole, or completely ignore the role of women altogether.
“In Appalachia, the historical emphasis is often on the coal industry—the industrialization of the region, the extraction process and the industry itself, or the conflict between labor and coal operators,” Rice said. “Women have been marginalized in a lot of cases.”
Rice co-edited the book with Maria Tedesco, director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program at East Tennessee State University. Together, they solicited essays and combed through archives for materials that illustrate the diversity of Appalachian women.
The new book explores the experiences and contributions of Appalachian women across time and place, the realities and the stereotypes that have defined them, and the battles they have chosen or have been forced to fight. It also documents the diversity of mountain women, black and white, urban and rural, rich and poor, Hispanic, Muslim, and gay.
“There is no ‘Appalachian woman,’ but many Appalachian women,” Rice said. “Just like the region, the women and their experiences are different, yet they all played a role in shaping the history of Appalachia.”
That influence has been felt since the frontier days, when gender roles were often blurred, to the present day in the battle against mountaintop removal, Rice said.
“So many times it’s women’s actions that have shaped the social, political, and economic structure of Appalachia, even though they’ve been left out (of the discussion),” Rice said.
Rice is the assistant editor of West Virginia History: A Journal of Regional Studies and a former member of the Governor’s West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission.
“Women of the Mountain South” will be released through Ohio University Press in March 2015.
For more information contact Connie Park Rice at (304) 293-2421 or Connie.Rice@mail.wvu.edu.
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