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by OneTon

Lexington native inspired to help Eastern Kentucky communities

October 13, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Economic history, Social history

A true Lexington native, Katherine Pettit, was inspired through her work with the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs to make a difference in the coal mining communities of Eastern Kentucky. Focused mainly on Knott and Harlan County, Pettit set out to establish permanent settlements in the Eastern Kentucky Mountains.

Before her faithful career on building settlements, she was involved with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) where she befriended many helpful contacts for her future endeavors; such as helping with fundraising for the future Hindman Settlement School (HSS) in Knott County, Kentucky.

The Hindman Settlement School was vastly important to the survival of the settlement. The school focused developing crafts and manual skills, which proved vital when the Great Depression was being fueled. With the ability to produce and sell crafts, the community was able to survive during the Depression. Another skill taught at the HSS was the ability to treat trachoma, which was a common disease in the community which often led to blindness.

After serving the Hindman Settlement School for two years, Pettit and a fellow worker, Ethel de Long, moved their settlement work to Pine Mountain in Harlan County, Kentucky. The two women worked together with local mountaineers to build the next settlement school named the Pine Mountain Settlement School (PMSS). At PMSS, they worked on educating mothers on health, cooking, and home care.

After an inspired life of helping others survive, Katherine Pettit passed away in 1936 of cancer and was buried in her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. To prove her hard work and dedication, both of the schools have still continued her work.

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