Monday, January 26, 2009

Kentucky's Moonlight Schools

If you're not from Kentucky, chances are you've never heard of Cora Wilson Stewart or the Moonlight Schools she founded in 1911. Adult illiteracy was widespread in the hills of Appalachia. With a clear vision of teaching adults to read, Cora gathered volunteers and set out to do just that, using a newspaper she founded as the text. Mindful that most adults worked long days to make ends meet, her classes were held at night, in the classrooms their children attended during the day. She hoped her crusade would attract perhaps 150 people the first night. Her first school was successful beyond her wildest imagination. 1,200 people, between the ages of 18 and 86 attended the initial session. Eventually, home schooling was provided for those too old or sick to get to school. Within 3 years, 40,000 adults had been taught to read. Cora eventually opened schools across half a dozen counties in rural Kentucky.

The top picture, taken in 1913, shows a mountain woman of Appalachia. The second is a formal portrait of Cora Wilson Stewart. The third shows a family of fifteen outside their home in Appalachia, circa 1913. All pictures courtesy of the Harris & Ewing Collection in the Library of Congress.


High Desert Diva said...

1200 people showed up the first night? Talk about not having enough coffee and cookies!

What a remarkable story. This volunteer spirit is just what our country needs right now.

david mcmahon said...

I'd never heard of her or the schools, but I salute her.

Carol said...

How Amazing........I am an Appalachia " freak ". These mountain people are my heroes.
Congrats on your Award from David at Author Blog !

Sandi McBride said...

Teachers, the backbone of our nation...coming from a family of teachers, I'm proud of their accomplishments. This is a truly great woman! Someone should erect a statue in her honor if they haven't already!
congrats on Post of the Day at David'

Poutalicious said...

This was very timely because I have been srsly thinking about volunteering to teach adult people to read. Congrats on the POTD mention.