Friday, August 28, 2009

Catbird seat

"Are you hollering down the rain barrel?
Are you scraping around the bottom of the pickle barrel?
Are you sitting in the catbird seat?"

The Catbird Seat by James Thurber

The catbird is a North American songbird (Dumetélla carolinénsis) long tailed and short winged slender billed birds that sing loudly from conspicuous perches. It's the only bird that is a combination of plain dark gray feathers, with rusty colored coverts along with a distinctive black cap. Put these three identifiers together along with its song you're looking at a catbird! The song is rather squeaky with little or no repetition considering it is a member of the same family as the mockingbird, more of a mewling call like a cat almost hence the name. Although it's a poor imitator, ornithologists suggest that the expression catbird seat may arise from the fact that they're good 'sentinels'. "They recognize predators and are very vocal about announcing that to other birds around."

The expression sitting in the catbird seat, which means ' to be in an advantageous situation or position' originated from the southern United States sometime in the 19th century, although its first recorded use in print didn't come until 1942 in James Thurber's short story called The Catbird Seat (The Thurber Carnival). A clever and very funny tale of a mousy man who schemes to murder a woman in his office who is driving him crazy with her annoying litany questions:

    "Are you hollering down the rain barrel? Are you scraping around the bottom of the pickle barrel? Are you sitting in the catbird seat?"
Mr. Martin, the meek and usually mild mannered accountant asks his assistant to explain what this woman (oh so cleverly named "Ulgine Barrows" by the esteemed Mr Thurber) explains:
    "She must be a Dodger fan. Red Barber announces the Dodger games over the radio and he uses those expressions....' sitting in the catbird seat' means sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him."

If you are a sport's fan you may already be familiar with this expression, the field of sports has produced some of the most colorful slang and metaphors in the English language. Indeed it was Red Barber a real person, as well as a sportscaster for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s and '50s, who first coined the phrase sitting in the catbird seat. In his book Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat he tells that he had picked it up from a man who trounced him in a poker game years before. "Inasmuch as I had paid for the phrase," said Barber, " began to use it. I popularized it, and Mr. Thurber took it." And, of course, immortalized it.



Picture Source

Robbins, Bruun, Zim, Singer, "Catbird," A Guide to Field Identification Birds of North America, 1966.

The Maven's Word of the Day:

The Word Detective

Thursday, August 27, 2009


    These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people.
    Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess.
    Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
    Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
    Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint
    and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
    -Robert Fulghum, All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Play Clay

This is a pure white homemade modeling clay that dries very hard. It's a non-toxic recipe made with ingredients that most people have on hand and inexpensive. Make it for rainy days, holidays or for the child in all of us.

Blend the baking soda, cornstarch and water is a saucepan. Now is the time to add the food coloring or you could add it after the dough has cooked and cooled. Stir over low heat for about fifteen minutes until it looks like the consistency of mashed potatoes. When it's cool the dough can be kneaded to make the texture smoother, and/or to add food colors. Make four small balls out of the dough. Add food coloring to each ball and knead it in until the color is even. If the dough is too tacky you can add some flour or if it's dry, add water to smooth it out. This can also be cooked in the microwave which takes only 3-3½ minutes, but it has to be stirred every thirty seconds to break up the lumps.

The clay will dry in about twelve hours if he creations are ¼ inch thick or less; larger pieces may take a few days to be completely dry. If color is added they may bleed and stain the surface that it's being worked on, keep a paper plate or newspapers underneath with project until absolutely dry. It's best to wait until then to paint the piece with acrylics. This makes will make a two pound batch and. the recipe can be doubled.

Helpful Hints:

No food coloring? You can toss in a package of Kool-aid for some color. Warning: this smells great, but tastes awful! Play dough tools are fun to use in making free from shapes. With a rolling pin and cookie cutters or knife, you can roll and cut out creative play clay to make holiday ornaments, mobiles, and three-dimensional pieces. Use colors to reflect the seasons. You could make candle holders and decorate them with shells flowers beads shards of pottery old keys by pressing them into the clay while it's still soft. Or they can be glued on after the clay dries. How about a hot plate or refrigerator magnet? It can be molded into almost anything; flowers, animals, birds and fruits.
  • To make realistic indentations in strawberries or oranges, roll the molded shapes up the fine-shred side of a cheese grater.
  • For apple or pear stems, use a real stick or twig.
  • To make hair for a goofy face, squeeze the clay through a garlic press.

You can also make this clay using dried tempera paint powder or it can easily be painted with enamel after it's dry. If you decide to do this make sure for every two tablespoons of tempera paint added to the mix, decrease the baking soda by the same amount or the clay will turn out crumbly. When they are completely dry, brush with shellac or clear nail polish. Shellac is optional for figures colored with food coloring. Stored in an airtight container this clay will keep for several weeks.

Sources: My recipe box.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Decadence describes an attitude of poets as opposed to a type of poetry. As the word suggests, there is a 'going down', however the decline is from the attitudes of a preceding generation of poets. A decadent poet thinks of things in particulars of what they mean to him or her and not what they might mean in a general sense. This characterizing word was initially used in the 1880s to describe a group of flamboyant and self-conscious poets, publishers of the journal Le Décadent in 1886 . The decadents venerated the French symbolists and Baudelaire , the group with whom they are commonly and mistakenly identified. Oscar Wildes's Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) presents a vivid fictionalized portrait of the 19th-century decadent, a synopsis of his moral inversion, restlessness, and spiritual confusion. The decadent movement during the latter part of the 1800s in England was embodied by the works of the likes of Oscar Wilde, Walter Pater, Ernest Dowson, and Aubrey Beardsley, as well as, the writers of the Yellow Book and J. K. Huysmans's À rebours (1884) .

It's not really a very definitive word because poets as different as Walt Whitman, Yeats and T.S. Eliot could be called 'decadent' Frequently applied to Greek literature and works from the Alexandrian period (c. 300- 30 B.C.) and in Latin literature to the period after the death of Augustus (14 A.D.). In the arena of modern literature it's frequently associated with the French literature of the late nineteenth century that unfolded along lines of symbolism and demonstrated anti-social, hermetic, egotistical, and eccentric behavior that brandished loftily the label "decadent".

The authors centered their experiences as one of a private and personal one, confined within narrowly egocentric limits. Outcomes of the work displayed usually but not always unsatisfied desires concerned with the 'experience itself' and with private sensations rather than the 'fruit of the experience'

Alfred G. Engstrom lists several distinguishing traits he found common in the poems of French Decadents.

  • The search for novelty with attendant artificiality and interest in the unnatural;
  • Excessive self-analysis;
  • Feverish hedonism, with poetic interest in corruption and morbidity;
  • Abulia (inability to make decisions), neurosis, and exaggerated erotic sensibility; (the "erotic" sensibility did not always involve a quest for carnal knowledge; sometimes it involved the opposite -- an eroticism made keener and intellectually / spiritually more productive by chastity)
  • Aestheticism, with stress on "Art for Art's Sake" with the evocation of exquisite sensations and emotions this was at its source a reaction to the naturalism of the European realists, the decadents espoused that art should exist for its own sake, independent of moral and social concerns;
  • Scorn of contemporary society and mores; (scorn is most frequently directed at the bourgeoisie and values connected with positivism and industrialization)
  • Restless curiosity, perversity, or eccentricity in subject matter;
  • Overemphasis on form, with resultant loss of balance between form and content -- or interest in jewel-like ornamentation, resulting at times in disintegration of artistic unity (the Nazis destroyed a number of Gustav Klimpt's masterpieces for this alleged "problem");
  • Bookishness;
  • Erudite or exotic vocabulary;
  • Frequent employment of synaesthesia (describing one sense in terms of another: "it tasted yellow");
  • Complex and difficult syntax;
  • Attempt to make poetry primarily a means of enchantment, with emphasis on its musical and irrational elements;
  • Experiments in the use of new rhythms, rich in evocative and sensuous effects, alien to those of tradition and often departing from the mathematical principles of control in established prosody;
  • Anti-intellectualism and stress of the subconscious;
  • Abandonment of punctuation, and use of typography for visual and psychological effects;
  • Substitution of coherence in mood for coherence and synthesis in thought;
  • 'Postromantic' irony in the manner of Corbiere, Laforgue, and the early Eliot;
  • Obscurity, arising from remote, private or complicated imagery or from a predominantly connotative and evocative use of language, with obvious reluctance to name an object ('Le suggerer, voila le reve' -- "To suggest it -- there's the dream." says one scholar);
  • An over-all aura of something lost -- a nostalgic, semi-mysticism without clear direction of spiritual commitment, but with frequent reference to exotic religions and rituals, or to such mysterious substitutes as Tarot cards, magic, alchemy, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, The Kabbala, Satanism, and the like.

R. L. Patterson writes....In my view the mysticism was quite serious, though often only half-consciously "absorbed" from the spirit (or, more exactly, the spirits) of the age and it reflects the eclecticism of the Decadents. I think that Theosophy and Gnosticism were most congenial to the Decadents, the former because it is an eclectic system that attempts to bring together into one more or less harmonious, though necessarily incomplete, mosaic all religions and the latter because of its similar blending of religious thought and its emphasis on the heretical and individualistic religious quest....adding

Let us add another characteristic of Decadence: Spleen: The neo-Romantic Decadents, like their Romantic forebears, tended to be "splenetic" (at least in the first phase of Decadence).

Patterson applies decadence to Baudelaire's work Spleen in the sense that Spleen is a 'precondition to abulia' among other attitudes with it's setting of sadness and 'protracted annoyance, boredom over the actuality that nothing seems justified or, perhaps, justifiable.'
The nature of Decadence has been divided into three phases by some:
Youthful Decadence where pose and efforts are to shock the bourgeoisie are in the forefront; exploring of language and stylistic resources; experimenting artistically; energies directed at going beyond human limitations by way of drugs, sex, spiritism, automatic writing, "unconscious" symbolism
Mature Decadence the appearance of greater emphasis on cognition, method, philosophy, religion, significance and intelligibility
Theosophy or Gnosticism where sometimes one of the orthodox religions, (for example Huysmans ultimately returned to Catholicism) accepted as a religious frame, with maximal retreat into Art and the Self.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Swan song

Emilia says, "I will play the swan, and die in music." (Othello, v. 2.)

Swans (Cygninae) are weighty, white long necked birds that live along the shores of rivers and lakes. They dunk their head into the water to feed on the bottom flora and browse grasses along the shores. Swans have a deep ponderous flight and typically fly in V-formation of lines. It's interesting to note that the names for the three primary swans that live in North America are the Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), Whistling Swan (Olor columbianus)and the Trumpeter Swan(Olor buccinator). While the Whistling and Trumpeting swans are distinguished for their loud and sonorous cry, due to complex convolutions of the windpipe the Mute swan issues a low grunt that is rarely heard, but their wingbeats produce a singing note when they fly. The word swan comes from Sanskrit for sound because the ancients believed their eggs were hatched by thunder and lightning. In Iceland the Cygnus mu'sicus possesses a note that bears a resemblance to the tone of a violin, though a bit higher. Every note is singular and arises after a long pause. This music presages a thaw in Iceland, and consequently one of its great charms.

A swan song today means a farewell appearance, act or statement or a last creative work. So how did this evolve into meaning someone's downfall or final act? "The ancient legend," says one etymologist," is that the swan is silent for a lifetime, and only sings once, beautifully, and dies. Beautiful nonsense."

The relationship between swans and singing stems from Greek legend and according to Plato it's linked with Orpheus and Apollo the god of music. The swan's dying song was one of happiness at the imminence of joining them. The article Because everything has to start somewhere explains:

The first "swan song" can be traced back to the days of Socrates. Specifically, Plato's Phaedo in the 4th century B.C. Condemned to death on charges of immorality and heresy, Socrates welcomed his impending doom because he believed it would draw him closer to a meeting with the god Apollo. The swan was one of Apollo's favored creatures, and men had observed that the swan would cry loudly and long. Socrates believed that swans "having sung all their life long, do then sing more, and more sweetly than ever, rejoicing in the thought that they are about to go away to Apollo, whose ministers they are."
Euripedes, Aristotle, Senaca, and Cicero believed Plato. Other argued against the myth and Pliny refused to believe it at all. One source attributes the legend to the 6th Century fabler Aesop. Chaucer (c. 1374) alludes to the tale twice in his literary work and friend and colleague to Shakespeare, Ben Jonson referenced his comrade in writing as the "the sweet swan of Avon." Shakespeare uses the myth twice in his work and one breathtaking madrigal from the same era compose in 1612 by Orlando Gibbons:
The silver swan, who living had no note,
When death approach'd, unlock'd her silent throat;
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more.
Farewell, all joys; O Death, come close mine eyes;
More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.
Still the phrase swan song doesn't appear in the English language until 1831 when English author Carlyle translated the German word schwanengesang or schwanenlied and plainly refers to it in his Sartor Resartus where he employs it metaphorically to stand for 'the final work of a person's life.' Finally Random House's Word of The Day says, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "ever the wit, commented notably that:
Swans sing before they die; 'twere no bad thing
Did certain persons die before they sing."


A Guide to Field Identification, Birds of North America, Chandler S. Robbins, Bertel Bruun, Herbert S. Zim, Arthur Singer, p 38, 1966.

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.

The Maven's Word of t he Day

Online Etymology Dictionary

Mindless Crap Origins

Picture Source

The Phrase Finder

Word Origin

Monday, August 24, 2009

Southern belle

    O magnet-South.
    O glistening, perfumed South! My South!"
    --Walt Whitman, Longings for Home

From Scarlett and Rhett to Zelda and Scott, Fitzgerald and Mitchell would agree, it's a universal truth that Southern women are just out-and-out different from everybody else. By the time Tennessee Williams's tale about two Southern belles in a small apartment with a rough crowd of blue-collar men hit the theaters in 1946 it was clear that Southerners were still holding on to their heritage and charm with a tenacity that many would describe about all of these women, as the heart of all things Southern.

The term Southern first arose in Scottish and northern England around 1470 as a variation of the word southern similar to the Old English Briton suðerne and the Saxons suðrænn. By 1810 "southern" had been popularized by Jane Porter's Scottish Chiefs and eventually implemented in America by many in the Southern states. The etymology of belle is French, from the feminine form of beau meaning beautiful. It was derived from the Latin word bellus meaning pretty. Belle of the ball is still a frequently used idiom and La belle France is a common French phrase applied to France just as "Merry England" is to England.

During the war between the states, southern women exhibited true grit and the Southern Belle became a cultural classic. These women are why characters from the above novels and play remain classic examples. They portray common threads entwined throughout the South and belles take a great deal of pride in their femininity and girlishness and use it as a resource but they will not be held down or held back in any way. They still want their voices heard when it matters: not sharp, but strong. All Southern ladies are educated to recognize from the time they're very young that by forgiving and refusing to carry the heavy weight around of accumulated grievances leaves room to stay soft and loving.

A southern lady just loves to celebrate. Whether for big celebrations like weddings, medium celebrations like baby showers, or small celebrations like tea with a friend or two. The rule to live by is the art of behaving gracefully in difficult situations. They believe it's an especially good idea to make life just as pleasant as can be. It's something that's indigenous to the South to be warm-hearted and tough-minded. The purpose is to charm to disarm with the effervescence of southern hospitality from cool lemonade served under the magnolia tree to a suppertime of sugar-cured ham and red-eyed gravy. But a girl can stand just so much virtue and flirting comes as natural to southern divas as the dew that falls across Dixie on a summer morning. It is utilized judiciously to seduce both men and life. It's the high art of blending femininity with savvy independence. A tough, self-assured woman who succeeds with progress and innovation is commonplace. What is rare is a tough, self-assured woman who blends sturdiness with a charitable grace and charm. Even more so is one with these traits who also clings to tradition, genuinely treasures family and esteems history and heirlooms. "Unusual that is, " says Rhonda Rich, "unless you're in the South where these women are everywhere." She explains in Hail to the Belles Strong As Oaks, Sweet As Honeysuckle :

All of my life, I have been surrounded by women whose carefully maintained exteriors beautifully camouflaged a fiery determination and indefatigable spirit. But they are much more than that --- these women are the magnolia-scented breath which sustains the life of the South. They are the backbone of a region once laid to waste by war, death, famine and destruction; a region that resurrected itself through sheer willpower and an adamant refusal to accept defeat.

Much can be learned from these women because they know the misery of relentless adversity, the importance of progress that pays homage to proud tradition as well as the fine art of feminine toughness enchantingly embroidered with irresistible charm. The strong traditional Southern woman does not whine or complain. She conforms when necessary, but mostly she simply overcomes life's trials and tribulations.

From the bayous of Louisiana to the cotton fields of Mississippi to the mountains of North Georgia to the Carolina coast, these women have reigned supreme since April 12, 1861 when a single shot from Fort Sumter, South Carolina changed their lives and charted a new course for all generations to come. The legacy, which began on that fateful day, has grown more bold, proud and intense as the years have passed.

Southerners are held together by culture rather than geography — from cuisine and religion to music and manners the Southern State of Mind has survived the onslaught of reconstruction. The South has been called the Confederate States; the Land of Cotton and the Bible Belt, but no matter what it's called, the land south of the Mason Dixon line is the most misunderstood area of the nation. Where else could icons like Robert E. Lee, Martin Luther King Jr., and Moon Pie be found in one place.

Look away Dixieland

"There was a land of cavaliers and cotton fields called the `Old South.' Here, in this pretty world, gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of knights and their ladies fair, of master and slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a civilization gone with the wind."
-- --- Opening prologue of Gone With The Wind

Out of more than four centuries of Southern history it was the American Civil War that has left a lasting impression on all daughters of the South. Mitchell's main characters embody the conflicting impulses of the South. The frail, good-hearted wife of Ashley Wilkes, Melanie provokes Scarlett's envious loathing throughout most of the story. In spite of the animosity a strong bond forms between them as they suffer through the war. In the end, Scarlett understands that Melanie's unfaltering love and support has been a foundation of strength for her. Like Ashley, Melanie embodies the values of the Old South, but unlike Ashley's fruitless winsomeness, Melanie faces the world with a calm inner strength. And it is her death in classic novel that symbolized the demise of the foundling nation built upon on the back of slavery.

While Gone With The Wind focused mainly on Atlanta it echoed what was happening across the entire South. Altered by war; changed forever by defeat, and social upheaval stark determination materialized as a way for the South to rise again, Mitchell perceptively penned her novel as an American War & Peace. It's difficult to see past the romance set against such an epic plot. One has to read between the lines to see the portrait of Southerners attempting to recover a discarded culture. It's not concerned with lace and crinoline; it's more about how losers of the counter-revolution discovered how to carry on in a place where all of their politics, personal and civil lives, have been razed. Scarlett survives, even as everything around her dies, but in the end, she too has no one.

Women from elite plantations were brought up to believe themselves not so much as women but as ladies. However this form of dependent femininity was impractical during the mayhem of the Civil War and most found themselves taking on unfamiliar responsibilities as workers, guardians, and providers. Many men wanted their wives to go with them off to war. In the summer of 1862 one woman wrote that her husband was "ordering me to Mississippi" lamenting that she was afraid that her baby might forget her while she was gone.

President Jefferson Davis received numerous personal letters from ladies appealing for their husbands and sons be sent home because they were needed by their families. Others wrote to their husbands plainly telling them they had "given enough effort to the war, and it was time to come home. " Southern women were frequently forced to move in with relatives and required, with very little experience, to manage their slave labor and operate plantations or farms. Some women seemed to enjoy the challenge, but for others the burden was too much. Many were left to deal with the day-to-day realities of food shortages and an invading army occupying their homes.

At an early age my Great Great Grandfather Alvin Bishop came with his family from North Carolina to southern Tennessee and settled near Porter's Creek which empties into the Hatchie River. Before the war, Alvin farmed with oxen and seven slaves. Family historian Ruth Gadbury writes, "The beginning of the war found the people of southern Tennessee divided in their allegiances. Some Northern sympathizers who lived across the Hatchie River from the Bishops were carrying out guerilla tactics. One day Alvin recognized a man from the other side of the river on one of his father's horses. The men with Alvin wanted to hang the horse thief, but Alvin talked them out of it saying that if they did the other guerillas would burn them out." So they agreed to take the horse away from the man, stripped him naked and sent him back across the river. Alvin would go onto to be a private in the Confederate Army, Co A, 13th Tennessee. He was taken as a prisoner at Chattanooga, Tennessee on March 22, 1865 and released shortly before Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.

After the war Alvin and his wife Mary Jane went on to have eight children. Their oldest daughter was named Kitty Bell Bishop, perhaps a tribute to the Tennessee belles. It was a harsh life and by the time Kitty was 13 her mother was dead. She grew up married and moved to Democrat, Texas. When she was 20 she gave birth to my grandmother Nollie Bell Hill. By the time Nollie was three, Kitty passed away and is buried in parts unknown. Even though the Alvin and Mary Jane's land in Tennessee has been sold many times over it's still referred to "the Bishop Place" by the townspeople today.

It's remarkable to note that Ruth Gadbury refers to the Union soldiers as "guerillas," perhaps it is due to the draft exemptions during the war that are interesting when put into the perspective of class. As a 'rich man's war and a poor man's fight,' the 12% of men who owned more than twenty slaves were waived from the draft because of the fear of murder and uprisings from a slave population that was growing increasingly rebellious. The precedence given to treating draft-age white men as exempt due to the burden of managing slaves led to a decline in much of the women's support for the slave system and for the Confederacy.

When Sherman marched down to the sea.

The obstruction of supplies going to the South was another crisis to deal with because many items of necessity were produced in the North. The trend for full skirts supported by hoops coincided with the Victorian ideals of domesticity in the South just before the War of Northern Aggression. The blockades are one of the explanations for hoop skirts falling out of fashion. It required large amounts of material to cover a hoop, but because cloth was so scarce and there was little to spare for elaborate clothing. Even the hoops were no longer available after they wore out. Working hard and making do became the way to survive and these women became the mothers of invention. Some even dressed as men and enlisted.

The impact of secession, invasion and conquest on Southern white women and their antebellum image supported by helplessness and dependence was confronted as they took on a growing collection of social and economic tasks. Their accomplishments were sundry and assorted requiring high levels of improvisation. The breakdown of Southern men to keep up their patriarchal importance on the front line also ruined the prewar gender bond of reliance in return for safety. It was the greatest war in American history, three million men fought and 600,000 of them died. Getting married was an added hardship due to a shortage of eligible males.

The silent half of the Confederacy's ruling class and its culture persists in the lives of Southern women even today. While Alvin Bishop and his sons were away in the service of the Confederacy, his father, Asa Alvin passed away. Gadbury writes that it was his daughters-in-law Mary Jane and Louisa Bishop; "with the help of some faithful slaves and neighbor women who dug the grave and buried him not far from the Bishop house." Abandoned after the war his grave remains among the pines on the sloping banks near Porter's Creek.

Other historians pouring over diaries and letters of the period have discovered that the daily running of the home was left to the women, even down to managing the slaves. They were responsible for more than attending to the selling of produce and the economics of farming especially, than is generally held. Even though women weren't caught up in politics they were the backbone of southern life, which was the home and her province. Women proved their capability before and during the war by managing the home front.

One of the worst atrocities of the war was when hundreds of southern women were captured late in the war by the North. On July 5, 1864 a cavalry reached Roswell, Georgia. Finding it undefended, they occupied the city and burned the local mills to the ground. In a report dispatched to General William T. Sherman on July 6, 1864 a Union officer noted..."there were fine factories here, I had the building burnt, all were burnt. The cotton factory was working up to the time of its destruction, some 400 women being employed." What General Sherman did next would stun the good people of the North and create a mystery that has endured to this day. The following day Sherman reported to his superiors in Washington..." I have ordered General Garrard to arrest for treason all owners and employees, foreign and native (of the Roswell Mills), and send them under guard to Marietta, whence I will send them North." The news made it all the way to the northern press...." only think of it! Four hundred weeping and terrified Ellens, Susans and Maggies transported in springless and seatless army wagons, away from their loves and brothers of the sunny South, and all for the offense of weaving tent-cloth." Author of Atlanta and the War, Webb Garrison writes of the women's' arrival in Marietta..." for the military record, that closed the case in which women and children were illegally deported after having been charged with treason." And..."had the Roswell incident not been followed immediately by major military developments, it might have made a lasting impact upon opinion. In this century, few analysts have given it the emphasis it deserves." The fate of the four hundred women sent north during the Civil War while the Union Army occupied Roswell remains a mystery.

In the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten

For the slave women, unchained by the war, the victory was hollow. Life developed into a cruel challenge they would fight for well over a century. It was a struggle to discover their place in a society to which they had once been captive. It is these women who left behind a hard earned legacy derived from strength, dignity and indestructible spirit and from their loins sprang the grandchildren who would stand up as civil rights activists. While prejudice has long held the whole world in its hideous clutch, it was from the heart of the South that the civil rights movement raised its indignant head. Southern mothers who taught their sons to be proud and to fight for a gentler, more loving nation powered it, quite simply by believing that adversity of any kind could be overcome through hard work and dedication. Historical and current southern women whose exploits or imagination have vaulted them into notoriety are writers Carson McCullers and Anne Rice; emancipator Harriet Tubman, ex-Black Panther Angela Davis; '30s outlaw Bonnie Parker; and mascara maven Tammy Faye Bakker. Some relative newcomers who have recently emerged into the limelight are Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard out of Carolina; Anna Edson Taylor, the first barrel-rider over Niagara Falls; and women's basketball star Luisa Harris-Stewart.

Women of the South after 1865 confronted both their doubt about what they could accomplish by themselves and their desire to avoid reliance on men. The women's rights movement grew from necessity and disappointment-a sharp contrast to the ebullient optimism of its Northern counterpart. Whether Southern women are descended from plantation owners or tenant farmers, slaves or mercantile owners, they are all daughters of the South; Dixie Diva Rhonda Rich says that they are, "the embodiment of moxie, determination and tender femininity. Molded by history, wedded to tradition, committed to the future, we tackle life with a customized and paradoxical blend of toughness and kindness." Universal threads of charisma, vigor and endurance have been entwined through its cultural tapestry, sewing together women from diverse races and economic levels of Southern womanhood. From the women of Tennessee and Georgia to the freed slaves whose great-granddaughters became civil rights activists it is these millions women who effectively bridged the gap between home, family and career, Southern women staunchly believe that it is possible to be both a tough warrior and a sensuous, delicate lover. The Southern belle lives on, in a world of proprieties and protocols and today's true daughters of the South have not forgotten what's important. They remind others that although there is more freedom, there is no need to sacrifice the simple aspects of being a lady. It was defeat, starvation and ruin mingled with the prominent prewar years of elegance and hospitality that prepared today's unique breed of Southern women. They know that life is meant to be savored, not swift.


The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

Gadbury, Ruth. Godwin-Hill and Related Families, Nortex Press,1980.

Faust, Drew Gilpin, Mothers of Invention : Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War,1997.

Hail To The Belles

Online Etymology

What Southern Women Know