Friday, August 17, 2007

Somebody ought to give the true picture of them

“So many outside writers had come in and . . . and given such a terrible account of the people. They had put 'em down a lot in their articles that I didn't think this was true, because the people that I met were very intelligent and they were very civilized. They were not like they were pictured in these articles at all. And I thought that somebody ought to come through here and give the true picture of them.

Life magazine article on Frontier Nursing Service Left: 1937 LIFE magazine article profiling Mary Breckinridge's Frontier Nursing Service, for which Mary Brewer worked at the time.

"And, you know, the Mary Breckinridge . . . the hospital. Mary Breckinridge, of course, was the first one, I guess, that put the people in this area on the map by going out and soliciting aid, and naturally most of their material was slanted toward the poorer class of people. They didn't tell anything about the fine homes that were here. It was always the little shacks on the hillsides and people going without clothing and half-starved and barefoot. So that most people in . . . outside of Kentucky, they got the wrong idea, and I . . . I thought that ought to be corrected.

“Well, in 1958, the . . . Berea College had asked me to do some research for the Ford Foundation. And I started out in the field, traveling with Rufus Fugate and Ruth Baker, who was a home agent at that time, and I began to find all these old people that had these interesting stories to tell me and I began writing them down. And it just grew and grew from that until I got a good collection and I thought well, it ought to be shared with others and I decided then to have it published. And Vernon Baker came to see me then. He knew that I had this material and said he was interested in publishing it. And he published it under the title Of Bolder Men, but it fell apart. It was just a disaster. [Chuckle]

“So I quit selling the book because it did fall apart. It wouldn't stay together. And then I decided there were so many requests for it that I would write it over again. And they decided to use it as a part of the centennial celebrations for Leslie County then. So I did it over for that purpose mostly, that it might be used for that. [A large part of it is sort of a genealogy] of people who live in Leslie County. I got the history from Leslie County by going to the courthouse and talking to old people who were here, you know, and knew the history of it. The first part of it is involved with the history and development of Leslie County itself, and . . . and the second part of it contains the genealogical history of about forty families.”

Originally blogged at Appalachian History

1978 interview with Mary Brewer,
author of "The Rugged Trails of Appalachia"
Oral History Project, Frontier Nursing Service, Kentucky Virtual Library

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