Machine-readable finding aid created by Eric Weig
Cora Wilson Stewart Papers
University of Kentucky Libraries, Special Collections, Lexington, KY 40506-0039
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of Item], Guide to the Cora Wilson Stewart Papers, 1900-1940, 58M25, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
36 cu. ft.: ca. 40,000 pieces, 31 boxes
Cora Wilson Stewart was an educator and author, born 17 January 1875 at her parents' farm in Powell County. She was the daughter of Dr. Jeremiah and Annie Eliza (Hally) Wilson, and was educated at Morehead Normal School, National Normal University in Lebanon, Ohio, and the University of Kentucky. She began her teaching career in Rowan County in 1895, becoming so highly regarded that she was elected to the post of school superintendent for the county in 1901. In 1904 she married Rowan County school teacher Alexander T. Stewart, and five years later was reelected as school superintendent. In 1911 she became the first woman president of the Kentucky Educational Association.
In that same year she began her groundbreaking work in adult education, establishing the first "moonlight schools" in order to remedy adult illiteracy in Rowan County. The program made use of county school buildings after hours and employed as a text the Rowan County Messenger, an educational newspaper Stewart founded expressly for the purpose of developing an adult literacy training program which could avoid the stigma associated with primers. By 1913 moonlight schools had spread to seven other counties, and an institute in Morehead a year earlier had examined the problems and techniques of drawing and instructing illiterate adults.
During this time she generally received support from the state, as well as the press in Kentucky, attested to by the numerous letters in the collection. Diaries and scrapbooks chronicle her successes and failures: they teem with both glowing praise and sharp criticism of her efforts. Stewart's papers also illustrate how she capitalized on patriotic sentiment during the First World War and the Russian Revolution. She encouraged the education of illiterate soldiers and warned of the susceptibility of unlettered individuals to communism. Revealed in the vast amounts of correspondence and documentation are her efforts on behalf of the Illiteracy Commission of the National Education Association, the National Illiteracy Crusade, the World Federation of Educational Associations and other agencies active through the 1920s and the 1930s. Correspondence from the period includes letters from Franklin D. Roosevelt, William Jason Fields, Calvin Coolidge, James M. Cox, Alben Barkley, and Herbert Hoover.
Minorities were not neglected by Stewart: she sought to establish standards of literacy in the African American and Native American populations as well. Several boxes of materials relate directly to the education of the latter group, including photographs and examples of writing. By the 1930s she had become less involved with education, devoting her attention to the Oxford Group, a religious organization which believed that an individual's life should be guided directly by Divine Instruction. Cora Wilson Stewart died 2 December 1958 in North Carolina
This collection of papers consists of about 40,000 pamphlets, articles, unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, and other papers relating to the work and life of Cora Wilson Stewart.
The collection consists of 31 boxes, which are presently divided into two large groups: boxes 1-16 contain biographical information (Box 1 only) and correspondence covering the period from 1900 to 1940; boxes 17-30 contain various materials which are not in chronological or thematic order, having been left in the arrangement in which Mrs. Stewart used them. Their eventual processing, however, is a much hoped-for eventuality.