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Oral History Interview with Harriette Arnow, April, 1976. Interview G-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Harriette Arnow is perhaps best known as the writer of numerous historical novels that dramatize the lives of Appalachian people. These works include The Dollmaker, Hunter’s Horn, and Seedtime on the Cumberland. In this life history interview, Arnow offers a vivid overview of her family heritage, reaching back to the Revolutionary Era. Born in 1908 in Wayne County, Kentucky, Arnow's upbringing as she describes it was representative of family relationships in the Appalachian region. Born into a family of five daughters and one son, Arnow describes the role of southern gender norms in her life and emphasizes her experiences in school. Especially illuminating is Arnow's description of her college days, first at Berea and then later at the University of Louisville. In her early twenties, Arnow worked as a schoolteacher, and briefly as a principal, in small, rural communities. By the 1930s, however, she began to pursue writing. Many of her published works were drawn from her experiences growing up in the South. Other revealing aspects of Arnow's life covered in this interview include her decision not to marry until she was in her thirties, her experiences in balancing work and family, her views on labor politics in the 1930s, and her reaction to critiques of her writing as both "transcendentalist" and "feminist."
    Excerpts
  • Family heritage dating back to the colonial era in the southern Appalachian region
  • Expected gender behavior for young southern girls in the early twentieth century
  • Absence of pressure to marry at an early age for a young southern woman
  • Economic standing among families in a small Appalachian community
  • Economic disparities in a small southern community
  • Total immersion baptism in the Cumberland River
  • Rules and regulations in a coeducational college in the South
  • Rural life in the southern Appalachian region in the 1920s
  • Public reaction to a southern woman writer
  • Southern woman describes her marriage by a justice of the peace
  • Views on proletarianism and individualism
  • Balancing work and family for a woman writer
  • A southern woman's views on the disjoint between feminism and individualism
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs
  • Women writers--Southern States
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.