22 Women Featured
In 'Tennessee Women
Of Vision And Courage'
The late Edith O'Keefe Susong, who was publisher of The Greeneville Sun for more than 50 years prior to her death in 1974 is one of 22 women profiled in a new book titled Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage.
The book was published this fall by the Tennessee Women Project (TWP). The 22 biographical essays were researched and written by 20 volunteer educators, journalists and writers from across the state, and compiled and edited by Charlotte Crawford, of Farragut, and Ruth Johnson Smiley, Ph.D., of Oak Ridge.
Begun as an American Association of University Women (AAUW) of Tennessee project, the Tennessee Women Project has expanded to an initiative of eight Tennessee organizations formed to promote the history of Tennessee women.
Crawford is an award-winning advocate for promoting educational opportunities for women and girls and furthering the professional advancement of women.
Smiley conducted her doctoral research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and later headed a research project at Oak Ridge Associated Universities. She has written technical reports and published papers in professional journals.
"The contributions of women are often shown as a footnote in history," Crawford states in TWP material concerning the new book.
"The stories of the women in Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage bring these women out of the shadows and shine a light on the trail-blazing, pioneering spirit embodied by them.
"They deserve to be remembered and acknowledged and to take their place in the history books of Tennessee."
'WINGS ON HER FEET'
Margie Humphrey LeCoultre, Ed.D., of Knoxville, a native of Greeneville who is retired after a long career with the Knox County School System, researched and wrote the 1,500-word essay on the late Mrs. Susong (1890-1974).
The profile is titled "Edith O'Keefe Susong: Wings On Her Feet" and tells the story of her unexpected entry into the newspaper business as the owner and publisher of what was then a small, failing weekly newspaper in Greeneville in 1916, her consolidation of that weekly with two other local weeklies in 1921 to create a daily newspaper, The Greeneville Democrat-Sun (later, The Greeneville Sun), and her career as the active publisher of the Sun until her death in 1974, at the age of 84.
The title of the essay, "Wings On Her Feet," was taken from an article by Mrs. Susong published in the Sun on Oct. 1, 1966, the exact 50-year anniversary of her first day as the publisher of The Greeneville Democrat, the smallest of the county's three weekly newspapers at the time.
Recalling that day after five decades as a community newspaper publisher, she wrote in October 1966:
"October 1, 1916 dawned bright and clear, a typical October day, with the leaves just beginning to turn everywhere, the air crisp and cool with just enough zip to make walking delightful.
"I tripped down the two blocks to the location of my 'plant' with wings on my feet. I had a mortgage for $4,000 in my hand, but I also had a means of livelihood for my two children, and I was ready to go to work with a will."
In the years and decades that followed, Mrs. Susong became a respected newspaper industry leader in both Tennessee and the Southeastern U.S., and one of the most widely-known female newspaper publishers in the nation.
At the Sun itself, in addition to her numerous responsibilities as publisher, she originated and wrote the popular "Cheerful Chatter" column each Saturday for about 25 years.
She was the mother of Sun co-owner and retired columnist Arne Susong Jones, who followed her as the writer of "Cheerful Chatter" from 1974 until Mrs. Jones' retirement from that role in 2007.
She was also the mother-in-law of Sun Publisher John M. Jones, who succeeded her in that capacity at her death in the mid-1970s, and the grandmother of Co-Publisher Gregg K. Jones and Editor John M. Jones Jr.
In 1981, she was inducted into the University of Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame: the second of five women to receive that honor since the Hall of Fame was established in 1966 as a joint project of the Tennessee Newspaper Association and the University of Tennessee.
Mrs. Susong was also among Tennessee women featured in the 1993 book, Tennessee Woman: An Infinite Variety, authored by the late Wilma Dykeman.
VARIETY OF ACHIEVEMENTS
Women profiled in Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage vary widely in the focus of their accomplishments, which include the fields of education, religion, science, newspaper publishing, banking, medicine, aviation, politics and issue advocacy.
Some of the women, such as Elizabeth Paxton Houston, the mother of political leader and general Sam Houston, were born in the 18th century, while numerous others were born in the 19th century and still others in the 20th century.
Among contemporary women profiled in the book who are well known in East Tennessee are the late Senator Anna Belle Clement O'Brien (1923-2009), of Crossville, and the late Evelyn Stone Bryan Johnson (1909-2012), of Morristown, known widely as "Mama Bird," whose photo is featured on the cover.
O'Brien, known widely across the state as "The First Lady of Tennessee Politics," was a major force in Tennessee political life for more than five decades beginning in the mid-1950s.
"Mama Bird" Johnson, a member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, is said to have logged more flight hours, trained more pilots and given more Federal Aviation Administration examinations than any other pilot on the planet.
COPIES AVAILABLE ONLINE
Copies of the 206-page, soft-cover book are available online at Amazon.com and at CreateSpace e-Store.
The Tennessee Women Project website states that, "To ensure that the stories of these women are not lost, the project plans to provide a copy of the book to every high school library in Tennessee."
The cost of the book is $16.99, and the TWP website states that proceeds "will provide books to Tennessee school libraries."
Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage has been nominated for a 2013 Tennessee History Book Award.
The award is sponsored by the Tennessee Library Association and the Tennessee Historical Commission. Winners will be announced in 2014.
The TWP website quotes Cherel Henderson, director of the East Tennessee Historical Society, as stating, "An important contribution to an oft-neglected subject, Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage is a well-researched guide to the accomplishments of a diverse group of Tennessee women across two centuries.
"The book is a fitting companion to Wilma Dykeman's Tennessee Woman: An Infinite Variety. It will inspire women of all ages and backgrounds."