|Vol. IV, No. 2, Fall 1990|
Two significant manuscript collections, in Arkansas and in Missouri, contain important writings by and about Ozarks women.
During her twenty-seven years as professor of English at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Mary Celestia Parler Randolph established a folklore collection of songs, sayings, anecdotes, reminiscences, and descriptions of folkways. This collection is available to researchers in the Special Collections Department of the University of Arkansas Libraries. It includes 442 reels of sound recordings, seventy-two boxes of papers submitted by students for folklore classes, and twenty-two bound volumes of typescripts.
Many Ozarks folkways have been preserved in books, short stories, and newspaper columns often described as "local color." The Special Collections Department houses manuscripts of numerous women authors whose works are set in this region. Lida Wilson Pyles of Carthage, Missouri wrote Tall Tales from the Hills, and It Happened in the Ozarks. She also published a novel and articles in several area newspapers, including the Springfield News-Leader, the Tulsa World, and the Mountain View Herald of Mountain View, Arkansas. She was a founding member of the Ozarks Writers and Artists Guild as well as co-founder and first president of Ozark Creative Writers, Inc.
Cora Pinkley Call, leading organizer and life president of the Ozarks Writers and-Artists Guild, wrote many stories about characters living in the Ozarks. Her book, Within My Ozarks Valley, describes her family's experiences homesteading in the Kings River Valley. Though her emphasis was on her family, the lifestyle and customs she describes were similar to those of many Ozarks pioneers. She also published nature stories and regional recipes. In 1953, she and Edith Berstard began publishing Ozarks Gardens, a nationally distributed newspaper devoted to gardening and nature stories. Call's collection includes diaries, correspondence with numerous regional authors, and a group of turn-of-the-century photographs set in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Eureka Springs has long been a crossroads for people interested in Ozarks culture and a popular retreat for writers, artists, and folklorists. Virginia Tyler wrote a variety of weekly columns for the Eureka Springs Times-Echo during the years 1967 to 1987. Her columns describe residents, places, events, area legends, and visitors to Eureka Springs. Her collection includes scrapbooks of her newspaper columns, correspondence with Vance Randolph, and photographs taken to illustrate her articles.
Information about the four writers described above, and many other research resources pertaining to Ozarks women, can be found in Manuscript Resources for Women's Studies. This thirty-nine page guide can be ordered for $5.00 from Special Collections Department, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, AR 72701.
Ozarks women are well represented in the holdings of the Western Historical Manuscript Collection. A joint venture of the University of Missouri and the State Historical Society of Missouri, the Collection has branches on the four campuses of the University of Missouri in Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla, and St. Louis. Materials housed in one branch may be loaned to any of the other three offices for patrons to use there.
Two collections, those of folklore collectors Loman D. Cansler and Max F. Hunter, are particularly noteworthy in their coverage of Ozarks women. Cansler is a native of Dallas County. As a student at the University of Missouri in Columbia he discovered Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, edited by H. M. Belden, and the four-volume Ozark Folk-songs by Vance Randolph, and realized they included many songs he had grown up with. He immediately set out to learn the songs known by his grandfather, parents, and Dallas County neighbors. After acquiring a tape recorder in 1952 he began to spend weekends and summers collecting. For the next thirty years he collected songs, stories, jokes, home remedies, and the like. In Dallas County, he returned to his family and neighbors again and again to collect entire individual repertories, along the way discovering and identifying native composers.
Among the Ozarks women extensively represented in his collection are Effie Anderson, Florence Browning, Susie Cheek, Lillie Dame, Ailene Franklin, Ethel Owens, Clara Smith, Nellie White, Bettie Wilcox, and Cora Williams.
Hunter, a Springfield businessman, concentrated on documenting Ozarks folklore over a thirty-year period and deposited his highly praised collection in the Springfield-Greene County Library, with copies in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection in Columbia to make it more widely available to researchers. Among his numerous subjects the following women were frequent contributors: Sara Jo Bell, Pearl Brewer, Olive Coberley, Lula Davis, Reba Dear-more, Reba Jenkins, Norma Kisner, May Kennedy McCord, Laura McDonald, Mrs. George Ripley, and Almeda Riddle.
A Guide to Women's Collections, listing major holdings in all four branches of the Western Historical Manuscript Collection, was first published in 1989. Edited by Lynn Wolf Gentzler, the 63-page book contains brief descriptions of over 400 individual collections which women played a major, or significant, role in creating. It is not exhaustive; each branch has many other collections among its holdings which contain information on the roles and status of woman in the nineteenth centuries. Copies are available for a charge of $5.00, plus tax and postage, by contacting the Western Historical Manuscript Collection, 23 Ellis Library, UMC, Columbia, MO 65201.
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