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For Educators

The Power and the Glory
A Novel of Appalachia
Grace MacGowan Cooke; Elizabeth S.D. Engelhardt, intro.

Northeastern University Press
2003 • 308 pp. 6 x 9"
Fiction & Literature / Women's Studies / American History / 20th American Literature

$9.95 Paperback, 978-1-55553-553-7

A rollicking good read that deals with such modern-day concerns as ecological feminism, social activism, gender roles, and class distinctions.

Originally published in 1910, 'The Power and the Glory' is a fascinating novel set in turn-of-the-century Appalachia. The page-turner centers on spirited heroine Johnnie Consadine and anticipates many contemporary feminist issues.

Embarrassed by her family's reputation for "borrowing" rather than working, Johnnie leaves her home deep in Appalachia's Unaka Mountains to take a job at a textile mill in Cottonville, Tennessee, a Chattanooga suburb. Here she challenges the unhealthy, dangerous, and brutal conditions faced by women and children laborers, exposes corporate environmental poisoning, stands up to the hypocritical middle-class ladies of the Uplift Club, invents and patents an idea for improving industrial machinery, and proposes a settlement house, utopian mine, and mill village to help women like herself.

A rollicking good read, 'The Power and the Glory' is filled with plot twists and turns that include romance, a lost silver mine, kidnapping, shoot-outs, scheming villains, a wandering chiropractor, and a dramatic automobile chase. The novel's themes of ecological feminism, social activism, gender roles, and class distinctions remain strikingly relevant for modern readers, who will revel in the adventures of a strong, intelligent, funny, and resourceful Appalachian woman.


"The novel is more than just a good read, as Elizabeth Englehardt explains in her excellent introduction. Rather, well-drawn characters help to avoid some of the stereotyping of Appalachians prevalent in most of the literature of Cooke's day. In addition, the novel is a historically significant text: although Cooke's novels have long been out of print and few scholars have examined her writing, in her lifetime she was both popular and critically acclaimed, and her writing covers nearly fifty years in American literary history. Furthermore, this novel both anticipates many current feminist issues and gives us a chance to see how personal feminism can shape a writer's work. Finally, the novel deserves our attention because it examines industrialization and changing roles in Appalachian society at the turn of the century. The Power and the Glory is an important publishing event for scholars of Appalachian fiction. It should serve as an exemplum of early twentieth-century novels that examine the effect industrialization had on communities, individuals, and, in the this case, on women and children."—Journal of Appalachian Studies

Grace MacGowan Cooke (1863-1944) was born in Grand Rapids, Ohio, and her family resettled in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1865. She was in her mid-twenties when her writing was first published, and by the turn of the century she was an established author, with works appearing in 'Harper's,' 'Munsey's,' and the 'Atlantic Monthly.' At the age of 43, she left her husband and her Appalachian roots behind to pursue a career as a writer in New York City. She later lived with her two daughters and sister in artists' colonies in Englewood, New Jersey, and Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Elizabeth S.D. Englehardt is Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at West Virginia University. She is the author of 'The Tangled Roots of Feminism, Environmentalism, and Appalachian Literature.' She lives in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Wed, 20 Jun 2012 09:53:40 -0500