Will of Her Own : Sarah Towles Reed and the Pursuit of Democracy in Southern Public Education
The decades between the Progressive Era of the 1920s and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s were a period of profound change in the lives of southern women. The life of Sarah Towles Reed (1882-1978) illuminates and parallels many of these transformations. Over the course of her long public life as a teacher, labor union lobbyist, and activist for the rights of public school teachers, Reed emerged as a groundbreaking leader, unafraid of taking on the educational and political hierarchies of the South. A Will of Her Own is the life story of a woman who had a lasting impact on her times as well as the story of the times themselves. Reed engaged the most significant concerns of the liberal reformers during the first half of the twentieth century-the struggle for economic independence for women and the fight for women's rights, the effort to maintain intellectual freedom in the face of cold war paranoia, and the pursuit of racial justice. Her successes, as well as her failures, lend a personal perspective to these national trends. Her career also helps to clarify what it meant to be a southern liberal in the twentieth century and how the region's peculiar circumstances shaped the politics and strategies of southern reformers.