A Letter to My Appalachian Daughters

56 thoughts on “A Letter to My Appalachian Daughters”

  1. It really spoke to me, with one exception. My daddy did that to me, through and through. My mom wasn’t an appalachian woman, she was from up north and had traveled and met a lot of people before becoming my father’s wife. She was a bit more enlightened. But my dad wasn’t, I was his property until I was a husband’s property, and he told me all the things you mention in your article. So don’t just blame it on the Momma’s, the dad’s are just as much to blame. They propogate the sexism just as much. I didn’t listen, thankfully πŸ™‚

  2. As I ponder the truths of this amazing piece, I can’t help but say an eternal “thank you” to my dear Daddy! My mother was not in our home, so he was mother and father to we six boys and girls. My coal mining Daddy, with an eighth grade education was a voracious reader/learner who modeled that to we kids. He always helped me believe that the big world outside our holler had so much to offer. At night we traveled all over the world through his readings, and NEVER did he intimate to me that my role was anything other than what I would have it be. Inside and outside our home, girls married early and started a family right away–frying that chicken and diapering those babes, as did I. However, the role model my father was to me never diminished. So I got the education, succeeded at the highest level, and travel the world. I am of Appalachia, and I am so very proud of what we daughters can, and so often make of ourselves. Thanks for the reminder πŸ˜‰

  3. Anna, I love this! I’m currently writing a novel on a similar topic about a woman from the hills of North Carolina who decides to leave her marriage after 44 years of being the Good Southern Christian Girl in an abusive and loveless marriage. I’d love to hear more from you about this piece.

  4. As an Appalachian daughter, I think this is a wonderful piece. This part in particular has me thinking: “Other women have done this to us, you know. They didn’t know any better. Ain’t a man in the world done this.” I’m inclined to disagree because I remember being taught that the man is the head of the household as well as the church. I feel that placing blame on women is blaming the victim in a sense. However I couldn’t agree more that “We only get what we tolerate, girls.” Sometimes change takes a few generations (ask elderly black Americans), but change has come to Appalachia for the lady who see it as an opportunity to own her life. Independent and courageous women such as yourself are an inspiration.

    For the record I do not know the writer. My mother, an Appalachian daughter herself, shared this with me on Facebook.

  5. Ms. Wess, my mother gave me this advice decades ago. I chose to not take most of it. My life turned out great. I’ve got my own job, money, and self respect and confidence. And I’ve got a wonderful husband who respects me.
    PS I was alone with cats for years. I loved it and wouldn’t have traded it in for anyone but a very special man.

  6. You truly channeled my mamaw in this piece. I too grew up with the skirts and fried chicken. However, I turned into the rebel. πŸ˜‰

    Thank you for sharing your writing! I enjoy and identify with everything you’ve written so far.

  7. Wow, this is so haunting, it strikes a chord deep within me. Thank you for sharing your insights. may I have your permission to read this aloud to my small women’s group ? We are four women in WV that meet once a month as a support system, and sharing this would be awesome. Thank you for your beautiful words

  8. I just shared this with all three of my daughters. My youngest had blessed me by sharing Granny Witches, which led me to read more. Well sister, your words reiterated all that I have tried desperately to instill my girls while trying to de-program them of the “southern, co-dependant upbringing” that my grands and great grands were taught. Thank you for sharing and Bless you and your words! I look forward to reading more!!

  9. I loved this Anna. I knew instantly what you were saying. In no way were you calling for all young girls to become atheists, turn themselves into whores and alcoholics. I was raised by a very strict mother, not the Christian woman she is today and claims to have always been. My father was not in our lives much. My mother raised us by a strict double standard with my two sisters and one brother and very little money. At our house, everything was about my brother. He got the best food and we got what he didn’t want. He was not allowed to carry in the 5 gallon buckets of coal because my mother was afraid he would get a “rupture”. He was not made to chop the wood cause she was afraid he would cut his foot off. So those jobs fell to my twin sister and me. He didn’t like free government peanut butter so she bought him Jiffy, and Heaven help us if we were caught eating his peanut butter, we ate the free. Same with store bought milk. She couldn’t afford milk for all of us but since he needed to be healthy, she always kept a gallon of milk in the refrigerator for him. My sister Linda loved that milk and when we started stealing it, she had him mark the line after his last glass. I don’t know where she learned this behavior. Her mother and sisters weren’t like that. I swore to myself if I ever had children, I would love all of them the same and treat them well but this fear of not being able to only allowed me to have one. And YES, girls are just as important as boys!! Thank you for this story cause I have actually lived it and you are so right in everything you said!!

    1. Wow, that’s an amazing account, Brenda, and sadly, I’ve heard many similar! One woman I’ve talked to was always told her brother was given priority because he was a “better investment,” that he would have the most potential at benefitting the family financially and otherwise. Nowadays, of course, that logic is defunct. And thank God. Thank you so much for writing me! πŸ™‚

  10. If the universe had blessed me with words I could only hope they would be as beautiful as yours….I have spent my afternoon reading your collection and I look forward to reading many more…blessed be…

  11. I love to read your stories,most amazing and dear memories flow thru my mind of growing up as a Appalachian woman .Thank you

  12. I cried when I read this. I heard my Mama in telling me all the things that a girl should be, say, and do, but I heard my Daddy in your rebuttal. I was blessed with a father that got out of the holler for a decade, and strove to make his only daughter more than what he grew up with. When Mama was yelling for me to marry a doctor or lawyer, Daddy was whispering BE the doctor. Live, but don’t let life roll you. Know your limits. And for him and his unconventional wisdom in an area that still preaches this to it’s girls, I am eternally grateful.

  13. Fierce! I’m at a loss for more words.

    I only have a 25 year old son, so I can’t impart this as a mother of daughters. But, I can impart it to him as a future (hopefully) mother-in-law. He is already respectful of the true power and beauty of women, but it never hurts to reinforce that.

    I will share this with my sister and her daughters. They are being raised to be smart, self-sufficient, strong and compassionate women. But, society still tries to muddy those waters and we need more messages like this to counteract the obsolete thinking.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with the world and helping all of us women be fierce.

  14. Thank you Anna. The double standard I was brought up with exposed. I so appreciate what you have shared. And no I did not get the message that Sharon did. I heard you say be independent don’t depend upon. You have a right to have a brain. Use it for something. If you serve others do it out of choice not
    requirement. You have a right to have a life. A message our brothers don’t have to search for.

    1. I don’t want my girls (or any of the rest of us) to have our worths and destinies decided upon by our plumbing. Just to clarify, in no way do I promote promiscuity, as Sharon probably assumed. That’s not what any of this means. But I have to wonder, when was the last time it was suggested to a young man that he’s “ruined?” Thanks a bunch, Patricia. πŸ™‚

  15. Something tells me you’re a wild child. Sounds like you’re not married, at the time, maybe never have been. A man, or men, has hurt you, so you think they’re all bad. You came from a strict Christian upbringing, but want no part of it, so you want to “save” girls from the teachings of the Bible. You probably ain’t a believer.
    I would never tell my daughters to whore themselves out before, or instead of, marriage. Girls don’t need to get drunk and wear clothes that make them look like a stripper or a street walker. All kinds of consequences come from stuff like that. Self-respect, dignity, and character should be the important goals to strive for in a girl’s life, or anybody’s life, for that matter.
    You don’t need to paint yourself up, or drink till your drunk, or force yourself to be something your not, in order to be happy. Respect yourself and don’t be a doormat to anybody. Get a job instead of welfare. Look people in the eye when you talk and speak like you are important and have something to say.
    And if you look around and you’ve lost your way or just can’t decide for yourself what to do next, close your eyes and whisper your troubles to Jesus. Nothing is too big, too small, or too insignificant for Him.
    I, too, am an Appalachian mother of daughters, and it is hard for them sometimes to find their way in the world.

    1. Thank you for your impressions, Sharon. I do believe you’ve inspired me, and I will have to divulge some facts about my own experience at a later time. I am, for the intents of your reading, only a writer with ideas. And I’ve clearly strummed a chord with you. So thank you again, for the inspiration, and for the compliment.

      1. I I was raised that I could and should, if possible, do it all. Clean , cook, & get educated. My dad worked all week for a coal company. Mom had supper ready when he walked through the door. We ate, dad went directly outside to take care of any chores, mom or myself would wash the dishes. Then there was family time, but to be honest it was all family time. While dad and I was gone during the day (his work & me at school) momma took care of her small cosmetic & household products sales business && cleaning & laundry. Our home stayed extremely clean and organized. Inside and out. Working hard wasn’t grudged, but they instilled in me to feel proud & accomplished. Weekends almost always included a small road trip. I do realize that everyone didn’t have that. I also realize everyone wasn’t raised in opposite circumstances. I had friends, cousins, etc. that had very similar upbringings. I also am aware of schoolmates that did have it as you described. I’m not denying that. I just am not pleased with clumping all of Appalachian daughters as having the same experiences. I realize none of us have had the same experiences & would encourage that fact to be known. My mother was brought up by a very Penetecostal Christian home & taught to be chaste, a keeper at home, and a hard worker. Her mother worked outside the home a couple or more days a week. Great values & a deep faith was instilled in her and she instilled the same in me. We can be biblical & be very successful in all areas when we put God first. Appalachian daughters are a beautiful & sometimes painfully woven tapestry of experiences for we have all experienced both.
        God bless you, my dear Appalacian Sister.

    2. Sharon,

      You hit the nail on the head with your “self respect” comment. And that’s exactly what I got from reading this. She is telling young ladies to respect themselves, be true to themselves, and to grow strong so they won’t ever have to be another person’s doormat…kinda like “Roadhouse”…”be nice until it’s time not to be nice”.
      As far as your assessment of the author…BUZZZZZ. Not even close.

      Just my two cents…

      1. Some of it “strummed a chord” with me. Lol I agree with a lot of it, but curious as to why put our “foremothers” down. They believed Gods word for everything they needed & loved. Their families & food, shelter, healings, etc. I am almost 50 & was raised in Appalachia, however I sure wasn’t raised to depend wholly on a man or to learn to tend to babies. Some of it is comical to me that ladies my age are loving this. They weren’t raised like this nor did they behave themselves as you described. Btw, I’m smiling & not wickedly, while I write this. I absolutely will never be a mans doormat & was taught to be independent. I was raised in a fairly strict Christian home. Less than some, much more than others. I was taught how to conduct myself as a respectable young lady, to work hard, be sweet, to smile (not look like someone that tasted a persimmon), to speak & show myself friendly, etc. I must say, I think it sure has paid off. Many elders not only love me, but respect my character. I’m soft, yet I’m very strong, I’m glad I was modest & not a runaround. My husband is too. He’s educated and a very successful businessman. He respects my strength & my tenderness. If I had cussed & been that type I would not have caught his wise eye, lol. I understand what the story is trying to say, but please don’t encourage young “ladies” to not be a Lady. It’s such a beautiful thing. Being modest, chaste, wives, mothers, daughters, can all be done by strong & beautiful independent women. Being a female doesn’t make you a lady, only behavior. Now, be strong, stubborn, educated, but do it with class!! Yes, with class.

      2. Anna Louise (beautiful name, by the way), I will reveal something to you. Once, as a young woman, still in high school, I was trying very hard to earn the best grades possible. While I sat at the dinner table one evening, after fixing supper for my father and brother, after I was the only female left in my family, I was sitting amidst dirty supper dishes, doing psychology homework. My father, who I loved despite myself, told me to “get off your ass and do the dishes.” I explained that I was doing my homework. I was a good girl. He pointed to the dishes on the table, then the sink full, and said, “THIS is your homework.” The same was not expected of my brother. My recollection is not uncommon. And unfortunately, that is the very thing I had been taught. To learn to cook and clean, and to be “good.” Perhaps you were fortunate. And I am not that much younger than you. Class is one thing. Respect is another. Some of us must command it or go without. I command, at this day and age, to be able to tell someone to go to Hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. Thank you for taking the time to contribute your thoughts. πŸ™‚

    3. Sharon, I didn’t see where Anna told anyone whore themselves out. For all you’ve managed to conjure up within your reply, it would appear that you need to whip up a batch of good `ol common sense with a healthy pinch of comprehension for good taste! Jesus had sharp comprehension, and he never assumed anything. There’s nothing wrong with young women being true to themselves, getting an education, or wearing make-up. I’d like to know how you assume to know what you proclaim about Anna. When did God die, fall off his throne and you took the seat? If by chance you happen to be gazing in a crystal ball to gain your insight, you should by a new one because the one you’re using is broken. Wow!

  16. I wish you had written this years ago and that I had read it. Well….when you know better, you do better!

    Much love and appreciation!

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