Author Courtney Lix profiles the lives and accomplishments of Dolly Parton and other local women in her book “No Place for the Weary Kind: Women of the Smokies.”
What does it mean to be a woman of the Smokies? While author Courtney Lix spent more than five years researching and writing her way to an answer, the Gatlinburg, Tenn. native – like Dorothy in Oz – actually knew the appropriate response all along.
“To me, it means to feel a kinship with the land, to draw inspiration, possibility, and purpose from the mountains,” Lix wrote in the preface to Great Smoky Mountains Association’s newest publication, “No Place for the Weary Kind: Women of the Smokies.”
On each page of this her new book, Lix articulates the stories of 19 women of substance with strong ties to the Smoky Mountain region. “I wanted to write about a diverse group of women—farmers, writers, artists, hikers—to highlight just how different women of the mountains can be from each other,” she said.
The idea for the book, according to Lix, came from a series of articles she began writing for Smokies Life Magazine, Great Smoky Mountains Association’s bi-annual magazine featuring stories about an array of Smoky Mountain-centric topics. “My research suggested that the lives and contributions of women in the national park area were under-documented and underappreciated,” she said. “The book emerged in response to that. For example, in 2009 I wrote an article on Laura Thornburgh. She contributed to the movement to establish a national park in the Smokies in so many ways—she hiked with National Park Service personnel who needed to be won over, donated some of her own property, took lots of lovely photographs, wrote the first guidebook to the new park, and more. She left a great legacy, and yet, almost no one knew the full scope of her contributions.”
As told by Lix, who brings the 20th female voice in this compilation, we learn in three parts how each woman’s strength of character and accomplishments has contributed to the Smokies as we know them today. Lix begins by taking us to a time when all who sought to shape the land were required to possess a degree of vigor and fortitude, not just the men. In the book’s center, a group of talented women make names for themselves by bringing the mountains to the world through their art, crafts, and written words. Finally, a woman’s touch is added to the establishment of this national park, which results in a stronger, more cohesive foundation.
The telling of these stories is important, Lix said, because although a few lucky women featured in this new book also have longer biographies written about them, most are more obscure. “History hasn’t exactly been even-handed when it comes to recording and honoring women’s achievements,” said Lix.
Each of the women’s life told in “Women of the Smokies” was full of surprises, said Lix. “It was delightful to have Dolly Parton admit to me that she writes lots of her own traditional-style ballads—most of them just go in a drawer, but that kind of music is deeply ingrained in her incredibly creative songwriting psyche.”
According to Lix, each woman in the book cared, or cares, deeply about the Great Smoky Mountains. “They loved the area in different ways—for their sustaining bounty of wild game and plants, for the scenic beauty found wandering hiking trails, for the artistic and musical traditions that fostered their own work—but each of their lives was shaped by the mountains in a profound way,” she said.
In addition to Parton and Thornburgh, the featured women include Lydia Kear Whaley, Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Caldwell, Dora Cope, Ella Costner, Phyllis Higginbotham and Marjorie Chalmers, Hattie Ogle McGiffin, Ila Hatter, Mayna Treanor Avent, Olive Tilford Dargan, Lottie Queen Stamper, Wilma Dykeman, Amanda Swimmer, Anne Broome, Margaret Stevenson, GracIe McNichol and Karen Wade.
“No Place for the Weary Kind: Women of the Smokies” is published by Great Smoky Mountains Association, one of the national park’s oldest nonprofit funding partners. The organization has provided more than $34 million to support the park’s educational, scientific and historical programs since its inception more than 60 years ago. Proceeds from membership dues and the sale of ranger-approved educational merchandise offered in nine visitor center locations in and around the park enhance the visitor experience, as well as benefit park programs and services.
For more information about how you can enrich your national park experience by becoming a Great Smoky Mountains Association member, visit SmokiesInformation.org or call 888.898.9102, Ext. 325, 222 or 254.
Author Courtney Lix Speaking and Book Signing Schedule
Monday, May 2
Sugarlands Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. During this performance, Lix will be accompanied by singer-songwriters Carol Zamora and Kaye Pryor, the duo known as Butterfly Rose
Tuesday, May 3
Cades Cove Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 10 a.m. – noon
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, Townsend, Tenn., 2 p.m. During this performance, Lix will be accompanied by singer-songwriters Carol Zamora and Kaye Pryor, the duo known as Butterfly Rose
Wednesday, May 4
WUOT-FM Radio, Knoxville Public Radio, 1 p.m.
Malaprop’s Bookstore, Asheville NC, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 6
Swain County Visitor Center, Bryson City, N.C. 10 a.m. – noon
Blue Ridge Books, Waynesville, N.C. 2-4 p.m.
City Lights Book Store, Sylva, N.C. 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 7
Union Ave. Books, Knoxville, 1 p.m.