While this column has its roots in last week’s topic, it’s not really a follow-up piece. I’ve already shared just about all the information I have about the Rural Health Conferences held here in the late 1950s.
However, when I looked at the 1958 conference program, the first thing that struck me had nothing to do with the event itself. What I noticed was that while many local women had prominent roles in organizing the conference, they received credit for their efforts not under their own names but were instead listed by their husbands’ names.
Sally Monteith Campbell and Nancy Potts Coward, named last week as chairmen of the executive and program committees, respectively, are actually shown in the program as Mrs. Claude Campbell and Mrs. Orville Coward. I happened to know their given names, so that’s what I used in the previous story. It’s not surprising, really, because that was the style at the time. Even Gertrude Dills McKee, North Carolina’s first female state senator (who has an historical marker on Main Street in her honor) was typically referred to in this newspaper’s coverage as Mrs. E.L. McKee.
But I wanted to know the names of the women listed, and I knew who to ask – Bill Crawford – and he knew most of them. Thanks to Bill, I know that Mrs. Wade Wilson was Rebecca Cannon Wilson; Mrs. Alden Bryson was Jeannette Farmer Bryson; Mrs. George Lee was former Sylva town board member Norma Painter Lee; and Mrs. Cicero Bryson was Lou Greene Bryson.
When we came to Mrs. Andrew Wilson, Bill looked her up in “Jackson County Heritage” and found out she was Mary Alice “Polly” Moore Wilson. He then helped me with Mrs. Boyd Sossamon (Nancy Allison Sossamon), Mrs. Philip Dewees (Mary Elizabeth “Lib” Green Dewees), Mrs. Kenneth Revis (Peggy Painter Revis), Mrs. Alliney Bryson (Shirley Muse Bryson), Mrs. Grayson Cope (Cora Elizabeth Davis Cope, who went by Elizabeth) and Mrs. Charles McMahan (Evelyn Parker McMahan).
I knew that Mrs. John Parris was Dorothy Parris, but I had to look in the Heritage Book to find out that her maiden name was Luxton. Mrs. Roger Dillard was an easy one, because I worked with Mary Jane Coward Dillard at the Board of Education.
All the women had a title, either “Mrs.” or “Miss,” and we find Miss Mary Johnston on the executive committee. Hattie Hilda Sutton, who I knew as Hattie Hilda Allison, apparently had not married at the time the conference was held.
When it came to listing the men who took part in staging the event, only the physicians had titles. Dr. Henry Barnes and Dr. T.D. Slagle were both on the Executive Committee, and the Program Committee included Drs. P.E. Dewees, R. David Daniel and Guy Gooding. Doctors on the Attendance and Publicity Committee were Roy Kirchberg and Walter Durr.
Those doing their part for the conference without any title attached, even though they were prominent in the community, included School Superintendent Vernon Cope, Extension Agent Paul Gibson, and Sylva Herald Editor J.A. Gray – father of current newspaper owner Jim Gray and grandfather of Publisher Steve Gray.
Lynn Hotaling was editor of The Sylva Herald for 18 years, retiring in January 2016. She is the author of two books on local history.