Cora Wilson Stewart and Kentucky's Moonlight Schools
Fighting for Literacy in America
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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This book analyzes the life and work of Cora Wilson Stewart, a Progressive Era reformer who sought to eliminate adult illiteracy in a single generation, a goal she believed would also improve the quality of life in rural America. It illustrates both the strengths and the limitations of a grassroots movement, examines the politicization...
Introduction: Creating “Miss Cora”
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Cora Wilson was born in 1875 in rural eastern Kentucky. The daughter of a schoolteacher and a physician, she grew up in fairly modest circumstances. In an era when education and economic or social status largely...
1. The Making of a Reformer
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Born on 17 January 1875, on a small farm on the banks of Sycamore Creek in rural Montgomery County, the sturdy, dark-eyed third child of Jeremiah Wilson and his twenty-five-year-old wife, Ann Halley Wilson, was said to be like her mother, although perhaps more headstrong...
2. The Moonlight Campaign
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When Cora Wilson Stewart celebrated her thirty-sixth birthday in January 1911, her only child was dead and her marriage was over, but she believed she had found the work God intended her to do, and with characteristic determination, she began. Having given the issue of illiteracy...
3. Moonlight Schools and Pregressivism
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Kentucky lawmakers had created the Kentucky Illiteracy Commission in 1914 largely because of Stewart’s emphasis on voluntarism and the relatively few demands her plan to eliminate illiteracy made on the state. Many of the legislators also supported the ideals of self-improvement, expanded literacy, and its promised economic benefits, although...
4. Nationalizing the Illiteracy Campaign
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In 1917 the escalating conflict in Europe and U.S. preparedness provided a new focus for the illiteracy work and gave Stewart renewed hope for legislative appropriations in her home state. She turned her attention to the creation of programs for the state’s draftage men, whom...
5. The National Crusade against Illiteracy
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Progressive Era reformers often began their campaigns in their own communities, frequently through voluntary associations, and public roles for women enlarged as these groups consolidated, federated, and became increasingly adept at influencing politics at local, state, and national...
6. A New Vision
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Suspicious of the motives and methods of the adult education “technique people” whose power and influence in the U.S. Department of Education and the NEA were beginning to exceed her own, and disillusioned and angered by attacks on her leadership of the literacy work, Cora Wilson,...
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In a 1910 letter, Mattie Dalton wrote to her dear friend Cora Wilson Stewart, “Tell me the character of a man’s God, and you tell me the character of the man.”1 Certainly Stewart’s perception of God and his mission for her on earth shaped her life and work and determined her character...
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Page Count: 270
Publication Year: 2006