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“The Maid Narratives” and Cognitive Dissonance

February 25, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Political history

Cognitive dissonance is when a person feels different emotions about the same thing. The authors of The Maid Narratives encountered this when they were doing interviews of whites that had formerly had black maids.  They are conflicted with the way they felt when they were younger and the way they feel now.  When whites with maids were growing up they felt a sense of security from their maid.  Now, they feel a sense of remorse after learning the difficult conditions that their maids sometimes worked in.

I am currently researching Florence Thompson.  Thompson was the first female sheriff in the United States that had to carry out a conviction.  She was from Owensboro, Kentucky, where the last public hanging took place.  Rainey Bethea, the man committing the crime, was convicted of raping an elderly woman and was sentenced to hang.  Thompson conferred with a priest before the hanging because of the personal, internal struggle she was having.  She was faced with having to be a strong leader that her position required while still having terrible feelings about having a man’s death on her hands even though the man had already been convicted and sentenced.  Ultimately she decided to have a man from out of town perform the hanging while she supervised from a distance.

When people are placed in a conflicting situations they are required to look within themselves.  This reflection brings out thoroughly thought through decisions, considering the repercussions, particularly personal.  This dissonance sometimes occurs well after the fact, such as the whites in The Maid Narratives.  This is also beneficial because the reflection shows the next generation the flaws of the older generation’s decisions.


by mookygc

Segregation in Kentucky

February 5, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

There is a “myth” of sorts in Kentucky that suggests segregation in Kentucky was not as bad as it was in parts of our country further South. Mainly, the example used to support this fact is that buses in most local communities were not segregated, and African Americans never lost the right to vote. Historian George C. Wright called the segregation in Louisville “Polite Racism”. Regardless of these examples, most things about day to day life for African Americans in Kentucky were segregated. For example, most public facilities, such as libraries, bathrooms, water fountains, swimming pools, amusement parks, stores and restaurants were segregated. It was even specified which door of a house you were to use depending on the color of your skin. Anne Butler of Stanford spoke in Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky about a time when she went to get something from her father at a house he was wallpapering, and was told “The next time you come here, you go to the back door.”

Many of the voices in both The Maid Narratives: Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow South and Freedom on the Border suggest similar notions that often people on both sides of segregation didn’t know what was going on, or how big of an issue it was. In the Introduction of The Maid Narratives, a white narrator is quoted in saying “That’s just the way things were done; we didn’t really stop to think about it.” Similarly, in Freedom on the Border, Joyce Hamilton Berry explains that she “never knew that they had black and white bathrooms in Kentucky, because I had never been to one.” Parents often shielded their children from the harsh realities of the world, and many African American and White children alike can remember specific moments when they realized something was going on.

Like many things, when you are in the middle of an issue such as the implementation of segregation or the concept of “Separate But Equal” Policy, it is nearly impossible to see the forest for the trees. One might see specific instances of injustice, but not question it or even be able to because that was “Just the way  things were done.”


Van, Wormer Katherine S., David W. Jackson, and Charletta Sudduth. The Maid Narratives: Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2012. Print.

Fosl, Catherine, and Tracy Elaine. K’Meyer. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2009. Print.

Segregation in KY

February 4, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

Segregation in the first half of the 20th century in Kentucky was a tricky concept because it was not the same picture as many people hold within their minds. Although there were plenty of instances of domestic servants or “help” as expressed in The Maid Narratives in this time frame, not all classism was so obvious. Porter Peeples of Lynch, Kentucky remembers, “[Segregation] wasn’t visibly noticable, [because] the town was small and even though we didn’t attend the same schools, all the kids played together,” (Fosl and K’Meyer,31). This certainly doesn’t make segregation in Kentucky seem as aggressive as it may have been in say, Mississippi, but does not imply equality by a long shot. For example, public transportation in Kentucky still had segregated public transportation, theaters and restaurants, even to those blacks that were biracial, meaning they had one white parent and one black parent.  In many cases, blacks were made to walk around to the backs of establishments in order to be served or, in the case of schools, be given second-rate materials and hand-me-downs from white schools. Mentioned further in Freedom the Border, some small, individualized ways people would battle this segregation would be not going to certain establishments to avoid the embarrassment of entering through back doors and quitting jobs in which they were being treated unjustly.

Although not exactly beginning in Kentucky due to the same size of the movements, this environment of segregation was the perfect catalyst of the start of many progressive equality movements, namely the NAACP. This organization worked towards the equality of blacks in schools, restaurants, etc, but also was key in encouraging women’s groups to work towards their own suffrage in later decades. The NAACP worked with the black vote, integrating schools, (who can forget the famous Brown v. Board Supreme court case) and in more modern times has worked to recognize black talent across the country. Because this time period was a hot bed for racial inequality, people like Mary McLeod Bethune, were trailblazers in creating black schools to not only educate black youth, but work towards a more equal education between black and white children. Overall, segregation in the early 20th century in Kentucky was a complex beast, transcending the common ideas of segregation while also creating the beginnings of civil rights movements in Kentucky and across the nation.


Van, Wormer Katherine S., David W. Jackson, and Charletta Sudduth. The Maid Narratives: Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2012. Print.

Fosl, Catherine, and Tracy Elaine. K’Meyer. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2009. Print.
“LSU Press :: Books – The Maid Narratives.” LSU Press :: Books – The Maid Narratives. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.
“NAACP | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” NAACP | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. NAACP, 2009. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.
“Brown v. Board of Education.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

Not separate nor equal

February 4, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Primary source, Social history

Picture of the cover of

“The Maid Narratives”

In 1896 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the “separate but equal” doctrine in the Plessy vs. Ferguson trial. Up until the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954, things in Kentucky and around the United States were anything but separate and definitely not equal. There were the obvious examples of the inequality that occurred in Kentucky. As Suzy Post describes it in her interview, there were white and black water fountains and white and black waiting rooms that no one really took notice to. To those living in Kentucky, this was the norm, an everyday thing. However, where the inequality mixes with there being no separation comes in the terms of the help; the maids that worked to help the white women around the house. It is in these jobs that it is seen that nothing about Kentucky in the early 20th century was separate or equal.

The Maid Narratives is a book written specifically about the black women that helped around the white houses. It tells the story of these women and the things that they had experienced throughout the years; the story of a society that was completely unequal and rarely separated. In fact, in the introduction of the book the authors talk about the paradoxes seen in this time period.

                “Small white children sometimes felt closer to their black caretakers than they did to their mothers, a love that often was not acknowledged by others… Black women servants were sometimes treated like children by the ‘lady of the house,’ but during tough times the white women looked to them for strength and comfort” (Maid).

While these words seem to be very interesting, the stories behind them are even more so. In the book, “Freedom on the Border: An Oral History

Picture of the cover of

“Freedom on the Border”

of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky”, white men and women reveal that these statements are true. Governor Edward Breathitt and Judge James F. Gordon talk about having “black help” in their homes. However, rather than this being a distant relationship, they describe it as one that was quite intimate. They always saw the women who helped their mothers out and became quite fond of them. They both recount memories of playing with these women’s children and saying that during their youth these little black boys were their closest friends. In their youth, there was no separation; color didn’t matter to the children.

However, as they grew from children to young adults, the separation began to occur. They stopped talking to each other outside of the games that they played, the black women stopped bringing over their children to play, and eventually the white teenagers were referred to as Mr. and Ms. Before this age, the “help” had no problem with bringing their children over to play, but as their children grew so did the inequality.

Although Plessy vs. Ferguson ruled that society should be separate but equal, this was far from the reality of life in Kentucky. The black women that helped out in the white homes were often times more of a mother to the white children than the white women were. however, they were treated with little to no respect from these women expect in times of great need. It is in this part of civilization that the greatest divergence from this ruling is seen because not only is it unequal but it is far from being separated.


“Freedom on the Border:.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2013

“The Maid Narratives:.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

“Plessy v. Ferguson.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

“Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

“Greater New Orleans.” The Times-Picayune. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

“Freedom on the Border – An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Kobo. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.


by mookygc

Cromwell and Citizenship

January 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

In 1920, a booklet was published by a female activist named Emma Guy Cromwell. The booklet was entitled “Citizenship: A Manual For Voters“. I found Cromwell’s definition of citizenship quite accurate: “A citizen is one who has the rights and privileges of the inhabitants of the community, state and nation, and as a duty should equip himself so as to render the best citizenship possible.” The part of her definition I agree with the most is the specification that a citizen has a “duty to equip” themselves.

There are many ways I believe a citizen can be “equipped”. The most important of these, which Cromwell outlines, is the ability to educate oneself about your government. Cromwell states: “The citizen who does not possess some knowledge of his government and its workings will become a prey to the demagogue, or of individuals who are anxious to advance their own interest at the expense of the people.” It was important for women in the beginning of the twentieth century to be informed, because they were fighting for the right to vote, and voting without knowledge undermines the purpose of a government ruled by the people.

I have always believed that as citizens we are provided with so many rights and privileges, and as Cromwell states, it is our duty to give back to our government by informing ourselves and doing what we can to further promote democracy. I think that if you aren’t willing to do something to change a situation, you shouldn’t be allowed to complain about it, and we are lucky to live in a country that provides the right to speak our minds.

by emme23

Emma Guy Cromwell on Citizenship in the U.S.

January 24, 2013 in 1920s-30s

In Emma Guy Cromwell’s “Citizenship: A Manual for Voters” she argues that not only is the ability to vote a privilege, but also a necessity if one wishes to be a good citizen in American society.

At the time of publication, women had just been given the right to vote. It is likely that many women did not believe they needed to vote, or knew little about what voting entailed. This pamphlet was created not only to inform and educate readers about voting, but to also convince the audience that a proper citizen is a citizen who votes.

Cromwell stresses that one can only be a good citizen if they understand and participate in the government. She claims that it is an American’s civic duty to understand how the government works. The more a citizen knows, the better they are able to serve their country. Not only does she believe that a person who is unaware and does not participate in the government is an unfit citizen, but also that “a person with no opinion on public affairs is a coward and unpatriotic” (31).

Cromwell believes “if we enjoy the good things in this life without doing our part then we are cowards” (57). American citizens are given many privileges, taking the time to educate one’s self on how the government works and then voting is a small price to pay for what is received in turn. In other parts of the world people are forced to obey a government in which their opinion does not matter. “We are living in a democratic government which is a priceless heritage and a great blessing to mankind” (57).  The right to vote was not easy to earn – especially for women.  Americans should not only feel obliged to exercise this right, but should also be grateful for the opportunity.

The factual information in the pamphlet, in addition to the personal opinion, back up Cromwell’s belief that voters should be informed. There is a great deal of information on how local, state, and federal government work, as well as topics like voting registration and political parties. Her efforts to make this information easily accessible to the uninformed citizen reaffirm her dedication to the topic. Putting together a document such as this would have taken a large amount of time and research.

In 1920 there were 27,011,330 women voters who had been given a voice in the government for the first time. Hopefully, Cromwell’s words inspired them to follow in her footsteps and give back to the country they belonged to.

*** Sources ***

Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell

US History: Roaring Twenties and Prohibition.” Wikibooks. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.

A Logical Explanation Against Voting Restrictions

January 23, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

Portrait of Emma Guy Cromwell

Emma Guy Cromwell

Our Declaration of Independence stated that “men are created equal” and that they are protected by the law and if the law, for some reason goes against these guaranteed rights, we as a people have the right to abolish the law. This was and is the foundation that our country is laid upon. However during the 1920’s these laws and rights that every U.S. citizen has seems to have been forgotten. Women and African Americans were not allowed to vote. While many sought to change this through peaceful and not so peaceful protests, showing the country how emotionally taxing not being a citizen can be, Emma Guy Cromwell sought a different approach. She set out to write a manual, entitled Citizenship, to tell the logical side of the story.

“Let us train ourselves for good citizenship and serve our nation, state, county, city and town in every way possible to make our government one of high ideals and the best in the world.” (47)

Cromwell formally states what is needed to be considered a citizen of the United States and the rights and privileges that come along with this. One of the privileges that she stresses is the right to vote. In fact she calls it “not just a privilege but something that is imposed by the law to be a good, active citizen” (45). In her opinion, voting allows us to make sure that our country is standing by what it said it would do for every citizen in the Declaration, and that if voting is restricted for some reason then our country has stopped becoming the place of freedom that it was meant to be.

As Cromwell looked at the world around her, she saw a place where these standards were not met. African Americans and women were not allowed to vote and actively participate in society. In her manual, though, she points out that these restrictions are against the law and should be changed immediately. Taking a logical rather than emotional approach, she shows in her manual why all citizens can and should vote.

“Men and women without regard to race, color, or social condition must take their turn exactly alike at the polling place” (45).

Many of the laws that were put in place during this time period were actually illegal according to the law. Laws such as having to be literate to vote and having to pay a certain polling tax are actually against the law. Cromwell logically explains why laws such as these are actually unconstitutional by stating the laws that govern whether or not someone is eligible to vote. Along with many other suffragists at the time, such as Laura Clay, Emma Guy Cromwell works to end the segregation and unlawful rules and regulations imposed on who can and can’t vote.



Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell

Speech on Partial Suffrage (Kentucky Constitutional Convention, December 12, 1890). (2012, August 16). In Wikisource, The Free Library. Retrieved                       03:35, January 24, 2013, from title=Speech_on_Partial_Suffrage_(Kentucky_Constitutional_Convention,_December_12,_1890)&oldid=4021282

United States Department of State, “The Declaration of Independence, 1776, 1911.


January 23, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Religious history, Social history

Image of the pamphlet, Citizenship: A Manual for Voters by Emma Guy Cromwell

Citizenship: A Manual for Voters by Emma Guy Cromwell

Without question, the definition of citizenship is continuously modified in America to suit those who identify themselves as United States citizens. The residents of this nation have continuously sought out representation and have constructed a governmental institution for support and stability and thus guidelines developed regarding conduct within the nation. In Emma Guy Cromwell’s Citizenship: A Manual for Voters, citizenship largely refers to the duty of citizens to vote, particularly an appeal to women who had recently received the right. Additionally, women of this time were encouraged to have a political opinion and to apply their skills and abilities to aid the community. Today, citizenship encompasses similar trends which particularly parallel the history of women in Kentucky.  Today’s understanding of the term acknowledges civic activity while coming to relinquish national religious sentiments in order to uphold the rights of both genders recognized by the government.

Cromwell undoubtedly believed in the value of defining a model citizen in the effort to construct an ideal society. Her values however, included duties “to improve and protect the home, the church and the community” (Introduction). She includes men and women in this scope but does not neglect the inequalities in representation as she plainly states the division of labor within the state and national governments. Voting has been largely expanded since the publication of this document, however, the ideals Cromwell establishes hold much weight in today’s society in term of political apathy. When women earned the right to vote, Kentucky established the League of Women Voters which encouraged women “to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy”. While the discrepancy of Cromwell’s era fell among racial tensions, the complex issue today is separated by age groups. The youth are seen as the most likely group to invoke change in today’s society but also compose the most apathetic group. Cromwell suggests, “We are not patriotic unless we respond to the call of our government” and that “a person with no opinion on public affairs is a coward and unpatriotic” (Chapter V). Citizenship is recognized as the “rights to have rights” (Citizenship in the United States) and encompasses the duty of all eligible people to exercise their political rights including the power of electing officials.

Portrait of Emma Guy Cromwell

Emma Guy Cromwell

Furthermore, an emphasis on strong community involvement and an encouraged plea to promote relevant global issues has taken root in addition to the existing promotion of local civic issues. Environmental concern has been factored into the national political agenda today and has also come to be part of the definition of citizenship as the right of a citizen to take up interest in issues of national concern. For example, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization promotes women who “are empowered as decision-makers and leaders, especially in environmental and sustainable development arenas”.

Most notably, Cromwell consistently acknowledges the governmental body’s commitment to religion as it should defend the church. She explains, both the state and national conventions are “opened with prayer” (Chapter VI). This has largely been abandoned in today’s definition of citizenship because the ideal citizen would respect the differences that define Americans and various communities. Kentucky’s government, in particular, has revised its documents to acknowledge and respect the separation of church and state especially as it pertains to the sector of public education, to which all students are entitled. (See Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky).


Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell.

History, League of Women Voters of Kentucky

Women’s Leadership, WEDO


Nurses In Eastern Kentucky

April 19, 2011 in 1960s-1970s

Everyone knows that since its founding in 1881, the American Red Cross has done more in the emergency field of aid than any other organization of its kind. It helps as relief aid, war victim’s support, and other disaster relief across America and even the world. But in some parts of rural Kentucky in the late 1910s and 20s, it was hard to find these public service operations because of the hazardous mountain ranges that are in the eastern part of the state. It goes to a place where you leave the comfort of the city and the railroad, and go into the rural mountain style of life. To a place where the knowledge and cures of Red Cross nurses would help save many lives.

While this type of rural living has a certain charm, it comes without proper (health) care for the most part. There are isolated cabins with neighbors living up to several miles away, slopes of the mountains that leave many questioning the safety, and many valley ways. There are few schools that are several miles apart as well with teachers who devote themselves to teach children who are less than privileged than other parts of the state. That includes raising health awareness and learning how to take care of themselves when they are sick. Money is always often very tight in those parts of the country (a tiny bit of cash and items like milk or eggs are bartered as payment sometimes), so being able to go see a doctor in a larger city when sick would not be very likely happen.

So instead, a small hospital was set up in connection with these schools as part of a way to help take care of people. Several nurses would go make household calls instead of having people come to them, handling all sorts of problems and illnesses. It was not just nursing companies that were having a hand in this either. Sanitary cooperation’s were working with water rights and privileges, disease facilities like those for tuberculosis were trying to help and even the United States Public Health Services were trying to get an official hospital train to these certain parts of eastern Kentucky in order to help those who did not have easy access to hospitals. Nurses also help abandoned orphans find other suitable homes once their parents die or are no longer able to take care of them.

These “mountain nurses” as they were often called would ride horse back from town to town to help any and everybody that she could while she was there. Things like childbirth midwives were very needed, as there were doctors around but not a single nurse most of the time. Having nurses in the mountains of eastern Kentucky would be a blessing to the people at this time. The idea of having someone personal there for them was new and the welfare of all in the rural mountain areas of Kentucky would be greatly improved because of these nurses.Rivers in parts of eastern Ky.

Even though not necessarily in eastern Kentucky and not directly affiliated with the Red Cross, the Red Cross Hospital and Training Department opened in Louisville. It was founded in 1899 by Dr. Ellis D. Whedbee (whose wife is considered to be the first African-American woman on the Louisville police force), Dr. W. T. Merchant, Dr. Solomon Stone, Dr. E. S. Porter and Dr. William H. Perry. Later in 1905, a second building facility was opened as the only nurse training program for African-Americans in Kentucky. The program was discontinued in 1937 and later re-established in 1948, where it served as a cancer treatment clinic for the people of Louisville and others, and then in 1975 it was closed down for good.


-American Red Cross,
-Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, –
Prospective Red Cross Nursing in the Kentucky Mountains (photos also from here),


by OneTon

Continuing the Work

December 19, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Social history

As I have posted before, I come from a loving family comprised of successful individuals. Newspaper clipping of Tad Chapman and Sophia Alcorn I am proud of my mother and father as they have led a hardworking and fulfilling life. My father served in the Air Force while my mother took care of my older brothers, Sean and Nick, and myself back home in Omaha, Nebraska. I also have the pleasure of having the sweetest sister-in-law, Jennifer. My mother eventually began her teaching career and taught for over ten years in the elementary level. Jennifer graduated from the University of Kentucky and now teaches disabled students in Charlotte, North Carolina. Being surrounded by two incredible teachers, I have had the opportunity to gain a new respect towards a career in education.

Born in 1883, Sophia Alcorn, pledged a life to teach disabled children in Kentucky. A native from Stanford, Kentucky, she was “a foremost educator of the disabled, Sophia developed the Tad-Oma Method to teach deaf and blind children to speak through the sense of touch.” The innovation of the Tad-Oma Method has made an impact on all students, teachers, and families affected by disability. The Tad-Oma Method works by the student placing his or her hand on the teachers face and matching the vibrations with words. “This method enables a child to learn to speak clearly by copying the teacher’s vibration pattern,” which is a helpful tool to last in the world of today.

A toast and special thanks to all teachers and professors who challenge students in order to better themselves and others around them!
Resource: “Famous Kentucky Women,” Kentucky Cooperative Extension Services, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, last revised, May 1997,

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