Sophia Sawyer, Emily Prudden, and Martha Berry encountered sexism, prejudice, financial hardship, discrimination, challenging travel conditions, exclusion from the right to vote, and social complacency.
On one occasion two militiamen showed up at the school door and threatened to arrest the teacher if she continued teaching black children to read. Another instructor dealt with murder and mayhem, violence, loss of life, and racial hostility. And a third was shunned by her neighbors because she associated with poor mountaineers and “begged” to keep her school open. Their victories against overwhelming obstacles on behalf of struggling youth in the Southern Appalachian region, as well as in Oklahoma and Arkansas, led each into a deeper Christian life. With vision, audacity, and resolution these teachers enabled students to succeed.
Their accomplishments as educators and as Christians provide inspiration for today’s readers. Sawyer, Prudden, and Berry were viewed in their culture as weak. However, they battled ignorance, bias, superstition, and even dirt, as they effectively changed the lives of thousands of children and adults.