I have always worked with men

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 5, 2016

Lillian Exum Clement was nominated as a Democratic candidate for North Carolina’s House of Representatives two months before the 19th Amendment, granting the vote to women, was ratified in August 1920. The vote over her two male opponents in the primary was an astounding 10,368 to 41. She won the general election in November and, on January 5, 1921, took her seat in Raleigh, becoming the first woman in the South to hold legislative office.

“I was afraid at first that the men would oppose me because I am a woman,” she told The Raleigh News & Observer on her first day in office, “but I don’t feel that way now. I have always worked with men, and I know them as they are. I have no false illusions or fears of them. You may quote me as saying ‘I am definitely for them.'”

Photo courtesy Buncombe County Government Collection/Flickr.

Photo courtesy Buncombe County Government Collection/Flickr.

Others soon followed. In Tennessee, in a special election on January 25, 1921, Anna Lee Worley was selected to succeed her husband. In 1922 Kentucky gained female legislators. In North Carolina, the next women to serve were Julia Alexander and Carrie McLean, both of Charlotte, in 1925 and 1927 respectively.

Exum, as she was called, was born in Black Mountain, NC, the sixth of seven high-achieving children of George Washington Clement and Sara Elizabeth Barnett. Exum is a coastal North Carolina town where the teenaged George had gone to work supervising railroad crews before finding his way to Black Mountain. Exum’s family moved to Biltmore after her father procured a job as foreman on the Vanderbilt estate. The Clement girls benefited from the support of one of the leading women of that era, Edith Vanderbilt.

Encouraged by her, Exum enrolled in the newly established Asheville Business School. She came to realize she could compete with the male students intellectually, and at age 14, went to work in the Buncombe County sheriff’s office while studying law at night. In February 1916 she passed the bar exam with top grades, and the next year hung out her shingle in the Law Building. She was the first North Carolina lawyer to practice without a male partner.

As a legislator (addressed by fellow solons as “Brother Exum”) she introduced seventeen bills including the measure for the secret ballot, the “pure milk bill” requiring tuberculin testing of herds, and a reduction in the abandonment period required for divorce from ten to five years.

NC State Capitol BuildingNineteenth century engraving of the State Capitol Building by J. & F. Tallis of London and New York.

She sponsored a bill to have the state assume control of a home for unwed mothers, garnering opposition (she was pelted with eggs and vegetables while speaking in its behalf in Asheville). Sixteen of her bills passed. Her bill proposing private voting booths for elections was defeated (some argued that other legislators opposed the bill because it would be impossible to bribe or intimidate voters if you couldn’t see them cast their ballots).

In the summer of 1921 she married newspaperman E. Eller Stafford, necessitating a special bill to change her name in the short session. She did not seek reelection. At age thirty-one she died of pneumonia and was buried in Riverside Cemetery.

“Brother Exum Takes Her Seat,” Asheville Citizen-Times, May 8, 1960, reprinted in Jack
Discovering North Carolina: A Tar Heel Reader , Claiborne and William Price, eds., 1991
Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 419–sketch by Alice
R. Cotten, William S. Powell, ed.
Women State and Territorial Legislators, 1895-1995: A State-by-State
Analysis, with Rosters of 6,000 Women
, by Elizabeth M. Cox, 1996
A Popular History of Western North Carolina: Mountains, Heroes, Hootnoggers, by Rob Neufeld, The History Press, 2007

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The Agricultural Adjustment Administration adjusts farmers pockets to less full

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 4, 2016

Surpluses of the main US farm products had been piling up in storage bins since the early 1920s, and President Roosevelt used the Agricultural Adjustment Administration starting in 1933 to try to limit the output of those products.

If their supply went down, then their prices would go up, enabling many farm families to make a living again. Eight products were to be reduced: corn, hogs, and milk were produced all over the region, tobacco was produced in central Appalachia, and cotton was produced in far southern Appalachia.

FDR and his New Deal programs cartoonCorn and hogs were linked together in a single unified program, and large-scale farmers gained disproportionate benefits from that program. Appalachia received short shrift simply because it had few large-scale farms. In the cases of tobacco and cotton, small-scale farmers usually received equal benefits IF they owned their own farms.

However, sharecroppers and other types of tenants were no longer allowed to grow tobacco or cotton unless their landlords let them, nor did they share in the cash recompense for NOT growing those crops unless their landlords let them. With these last two policies, the AAA-hastened elimination of sharecropping jobs in the region created a northward migration of tenants, sharecroppers, and farm laborers to city slums.

Years later, Rexford Tugwell, who had served as Asst. Secretary of Agriculture under Henry A. Wallace, said of the AAA: “The problems of another generation were created by the policies of 1933, and absolutely nothing was done to avert what was plainly to be a disaster.”

cornstalkParticipation in the ‘corn-hog’ limitation program was voluntary, and most mountain families did not participate. Corn & hogs were the two basic subsistence products of the region, and those two products were the only two AAA reductions administered in tandem: a farmer could only receive money for reducing corn acreage if he also reduced hog numbers, and vice versa.

The compensating payments mailed to farmers who participated in the corn-hog program reimbursed them at the pre-AAA market value of the corn & hogs in question. But the cost to replace them was higher than that. In corn, bumper years in 1932 & 1933 had driven the price of a bushel as low as 18 cents.

But a major drought afflicting the Plains states in 1933-34 drove the price back up to 79 cents a bushel by December 1934, and $1.00/bushel in some parts of eastern KY. So farmers who signed up to sacrifice 20-30 percent of their 1932-33 production were only offered 30 cents a bushel by the AAA for their 1933-34 crop.

As to hogs, the 1934 corn-hog contract specified that hogs raised for home consumption were restricted to the average annual number per farm raised for that purpose in the two base years of 1932-33.

hog suckling pigletsBut industrial cutbacks being caused by the ongoing Depression meant the region’s farms had to produce more as off-the-farm work dried up. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics reported in eastern Kentucky that an almost 30 percent “increase in the number of farms from 1929 to 1934 was brought about largely by change of occupation from mining to farming.

“The same families were involved, but because of less employment in the mines or forests, they did relatively more farming and became classed as farmers in 1934″ Excluding eastern KY, throughout the rest of Appalachia farms went from 5.45 residents per farm on average in 1930 to 5.6 per farm in 1935.

In effect, then, the AAA program hindered small farmers in Appalachia from supporting themselves, driving some onto relief. But AAA’s Washington administrators weren’t interested in the program’s effect on small farmers. “Commercial slaughter is the important item for a corn-hog program,” said AAA’s acting administrator HR Tolley in April 1935. 150,000 fewer ‘small producers’ chose to sign 1935 corn-hog contracts than had signed 1934 corn-hog contracts, but he didn’t seem to care. Paul Salstrom supports this point of view in Appalachia’s Path to Dependency.

“My study of WV leads me to somewhat different and more charitable conclusions about the New Deal,” counters Jerry Bruce Thomas in An Appalachian New Deal.

“The advance of industrial capitalism and destructive agricultural practices wrecked subsistence agriculture well before the Great Depression. New Deal relief payments in WV, often less than half the national average, generally were desperately needed by the recipients. The AAA provided little help to WV’s small farmers, but other New Deal legislation tried to help low-income farmers save their farms.

“Although the New Deal failed to foster a complete recovery for either the nation or WV before WWII, it did much to make the Depression more tolerable and to encourage in the American people a sense of compassion. That it fell short of its goals is not surprising, given the severity of problems it faced, the nature of the Federal system, and the inconsistency and lack of continuity in the New Deal itself.”

A Gallup Poll printed in The Washington Post revealed that a majority of the American public opposed the AAA. This is mostly because of the mass killing of six million pigs in 1933 which was criticized by many people at the time.

Supreme Court Justice Owen Josephus RobertsSupreme Court Justice Owen Josephus Roberts.

The Supreme Court ruled on Jan 6, 1936, in United States v. Butler, that the processing taxes instituted by the AAA were unconstitutional. Justice Owen Josephus Roberts argued:

The act invades the reserved rights of the states. It is a statutory plan to regulate and control agricultural production, a matter beyond the powers delegated to the federal government. The tax, the appropriation of the funds raised, and the direction for their disbursement, are but parts of the plan. They are but means to an unconstitutional end.

Sources: High Mountains Rising, by Richard Alan Straw & Tyler Blethen, University of Illinois Press, 2004
Appalachia’s Path to Dependency, by Paul Salstrom, University Press of Kentucky, 1997
An Appalachian New Deal, by Jerry Bruce Thomas, University Press of Kentucky, 1998
United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1 (1936)

Agricultural+Adjustment+Administration sharecroppers corn-hog+limitations appalachia +appalachian+history +appalachia+history

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Happy New Year!

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 1, 2016


One Response

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Connecting the Dots

Posted by Dave Tabler | December 31, 2015

Please welcome guest author Jeanne Rountree of Gainesville, GA.  Rountree is the author of the Teach. Love. Inspire. blog.  She is an English teacher and teacher leader at Chestatee Academy.  Between planning, grading, and meeting, she enjoys reading Southern Lit, watching documentaries, fishing in local lakes and rivers, practicing her photography skills, and spending time with her family.  


“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs

Rays of sunshine filter through the tree casting dark shadows on the ground. The contrast isn’t intentional, but it is striking. I think of the shadows as the hard times–parents trying to make ends meet, children up early to work in the field, flour sack dresses and bare feet–and the sunlight as the more joyful ones–the front porch full of family, simple Christmas cheer, laughter of cousins running in dusty circles.


Originally built in the mid 1800s, the house was little more than two rooms. Later additions would bring a front porch, a living room, and an additional bedroom. Nearly a hundred years later, a screen porch would supply an indoor bathroom and storage for a real washer and dryer. Television arrived in the 1960s, just in time for the American daytime soap opera broadcast of Days of Our Lives.

This house settled into the foothills of Southern Appalachia is where I come from.

Allow me to connect the dots . . .

As I begin this blogging journey, I think it is important to reflect on this. My parents’ lives and my life allowed me to travel far from these hills, from the struggle to survive and the life of the mountain folk. In fact, other than visits on weekends, I had very little exposure to this life in the Appalachians.

But still, it never leaves me.

When I look at this house, at the mountains, at the patchwork of trees, and the river that runs through them there is an emotion that overtakes me. Every time, there is a feeling that runs deep in my soul, deeper than the blood of the Scottish and Irish from which I descend, something that even I can’t put in to words. Spiritual? Supernatural? I am not sure. I am simply aware that something about this place is an important piece of me. It is a driving force of my imagination. It is an integral piece of my puzzle. It lives in me. It inspires me.

And that is the focus of this blog–Teach. Love. Inspire.

Now to return to the topic of teaching. In an attempt to overcome teenage apathy and general lack of motivation, I will, at times, find myself on the dreaded soapbox. Here, I encourage the thirteen and fourteen-year-olds in my room to set goals. I remind them that aspiring for something different or more doesn’t mean they don’t love or respect what they have, but hard work and big dreams might allow them to be more successful or have new and different experiences. Their faces will often go lax, and their eyes will start to dull if I talk too long.

But then, I will find them and myself getting a bit emotional, when I tell them where I am from. They understand me when I say I am two generations removed from illiteracy. Though he was intelligent and a shrewd businessman, my grandfather never learned to read or write. They relate when I tell them my parents moved to another place so they, and later, my sister and I would have more opportunities.

They feel my pain when I tell them I saw parents’ hands crack open and bleed from hard, physical labor. They believe me when I say that I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed of my life or where I am from. In fact, I am very thankful for my parents and so proud of the life they provided for me. Even so, I simply wanted more. I wanted a college degree. I wanted a career. I wanted what that life would afford me.

I am fortunate to have accomplished these goals. Even more so, I am fortunate to have people who believed in me and encouraged me. However, there are still goals to be met. I certainly hope I am not finished learning and growing yet. How disappointing would that be? But as I continue on this journey, I never forget that no matter where I go that this place is where I am from. It lives in me. It inspires me. And sometimes, if things go just right, it inspires the thirteen and fourteen-year-olds in my classroom, and I like that.



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She, a Catholic, could not convert him to her belief

Posted by Dave Tabler | December 30, 2015

From the 1927 divorce case filed by James R. Seawall against Dorothy Elizabeth Seawall in Knox County Fourth Circuit Court, Knoxville, TN:

“After their marriage, and in the year 1923, the defendant began to neglect him, and to absent herself from his home, and to spend the greater part of her time with her parents; that from December 1923 she has wholly separated herself from him and has lived with her parents.

“He respectfully avers that he has done all that he knows how to do to make her a loyal husband, and to properly provide for her and their children, but avers that she has not reciprocated, and that she has wholly separated herself from him, willfully and maliciously and without any just or reasonable cause, for two whole years and more, to wit four years next preceding the filing of this bill. And so complete has been the separation that this Complainant has not so much as seen the defendant since January 1924.

“Complainant would further show that he is a traveling salesman covering all the Southeastern part of the United States, and that as such he was sent to Knoxville more than two whole years ago next preceding the filing of this bill, and that he took up his bona fide residence at Knoxville on or about April 1, 1925. That he has since continually resided here, as his home, and that he is a bona fide citizen and resident of Knox County, TN.

“He would show that the separation herein complained of took place in the State of New York on or about December 30, 1923, and was wholly uncalled for, and inexcusable, and that it was without any just or reasonable cause. That the only cause which could have been assigned was a difference in religious affiliations, but this Complainant respectfully avers that the defendant knew his affiliations before their marriage, and that she, a Catholic, could not convert him to her belief, and therefore, and for no other cause, deserted him and his home.”

INTERROGATORY PROPOUNDED to Mrs. Lela Guerard by the Complainant in the above styled cause, and answered by the said witness under oath.

Q. Please state your name, age and residence?
A. Lela Seawall Guerard, 32, San Antonio, TX.

Q. Do you know whether, during the marriage relation, or during the time when Mr. Seawall and his wife were living together, the Complainant supported his wife as a husband should?
A. I saw a good bit of them for about two months after the marriage; at that time his wife and her family seemed very much attached to Mr. Seawall. She wrote me several times between that time and the time I heard of the separation; there was nothing in the letters to suggest that she was not happy with him; certainly no complaint of his conduct towards her.

Q. State fully, if you know, how Mrs. Seawell conducted herself with reference to properly keeping her home, remaining with her husband, preparing his meals, doing his mending and housework, and general work that is ordinarily done by a housewife for her husband?

A. So far as I knew up to the time I left there was no complaint; from the time that I came to Texas I only know of what happened by complaints he made about the way things were going. He complained in his letters about her frequent and repeated absences from the home and neglect of household duties.

Q. Did you know Mrs. Seawall’s parents?
A. Yes.

Q. What was their attitude toward the homelife of James R. Seawall and his wife? That is to say, did they at any time so interfere with the affairs of his home as to cause his wife to be less affectionate toward him? And did they, or either of them intermeddle in the affairs of his home so as to estrange his wife from him?
A. The attitude of Mrs. Seawell’s parents up to the time I came to Texas was very friendly; their attitude later I only know from his letters to me, and what he told me when I visited him about two years ago during the time he was separated from her; in those conversations he attributed his entire trouble to differences in religion and interference in their affairs by his wife’s mother and father.

Q. Was Seawall kind and good to his wife?
A. Judging from what I saw during the time I was with them, from his and her letters, and his talk of her with me, I would say that he was.

Q. Was there anything in his conduct toward her that would justify her in leaving him and going to her parents and remaining out of his home for days at a time, or weeks, and finally deserting him?
A. Nothing in the world that could be imagined from what I know of their affairs, or know of the parties.

Q. Have you been in frequent and continued correspondence with Mr. Seawall since he and his wife’s marriage and separation?
A. Yes; I am his sister.

Q. Do you know of any reason why these parties cannot get along and live happily together except what you have already stated?
A. None in the world; I verily believe that though she is an ardent Catholic and he a Protestant, that this obstacle could be overcome, but for the interference of her family. With those two situations I see no chance of happiness for them. She has evidently chosen her parents and their wishes in preference to those of her husband, and between him and her parents there is a gulf that can not be bridged.

Full document here, from collection of Tennessee Electronic Library/Volunteer Voices

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