Looking back, 2017 was a hard year. There were a lot of changes for my family and me. My biggest was trying to decide who I was as an author. After a lengthy discussion with my friends, tossing in the results of numerous contests, it’s decided: I am a Southern Fiction Writer. Not a romance novelist as I previously thought. I started to think about what it means to be a Southern Woman, not a Southern author, but a Southern Woman who loves to write.
Southern women have a long tradition of standing up for what they believe in. We don’t shy away from sharing our thoughts, although some of us are more polite than others. Ever heard “You attract more bees with honey than vinegar.” Of course, you have. After the conflict over the last year involving our Southern love of heritage and history, I did some digging for some historical Southern Women that were examples of our strong culture and discovered some gems of all ethnic backgrounds. Penelope Barker, born and raised in Edenton, NC, started the Edenton Tea Party in 1774 organizing a group of 50 women to boycott English goods and services. Mary Musgrove (c.1700-1765) of Georgia, who acted as a diplomat between the Native Americans and settlers, assisted in the formation of the state of Georgia. She pushed for the rights of Native Americans and people of mixed race descent in the newly developing United States. Bridget Biddey Mason, (1818-1891), was born a slave in Georgia. After being moved west by her owner, she lead a legal fight against him to gain freedom for herself and other slaves when California joined the Union as a slave-free state. Ladybird Johnson of Texas brought environmental conservation to the thoughts of the Nation during the 1960’s when our citizens wanted to make a difference.
Southern women have always used their writing to bring the hard subjects to the forefront. Willa Cather (1873-1947) challenged the rigid gender roles of the Victorian Era with her work and lifestyle wearing her hair short and pants. Endora Welty from Mississippi took on the racial turmoil of her time by writing her “Where is the Voice Coming From?” writing from the point of view of an assassin. Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) wrote about her life in Harlem as a popular author during the Harlem Renaissance. Her novels went unrecognized by modern readers until a work by the famous Alice Walker about her importance in literature in Ms. Magazine during the 1970’s.
Today’s Southern women have found a platform on social media to bring their passions to light, but sometimes it can be unkind. The summer of 2017 turned “Southern” into a derogatory description with protests in Charlottesville, Virginia and on college campuses across the South. It became the equivalent of “Racist.” It has taken women like Reese Witherspoon with her positive push for change in Hollywood to reverse that mislabel. Using her clothing business, Draper James, and her joint venture, Hello Sunshine, she has accepted the challenge to make the changes she wants. I am inspired by her example. The story that I write every day with my lifestyle shows I am proud to be a Southern Woman. The strength that I have inherited from generations before me empowers my courage to make change for the future generations of Southern Women. 2018 will be the year for positive change. I am up for the challenge. Are you? What is your passion?
All photos on the website are taken by Tammera Cooper and remain her property.