Emma Rowena Caldwell was an intelligent, attractive young woman and a hard worker. Growing up in rural Ohio in the very early 1900s, there wasn’t much opportunity for someone in her circumstances. Born into a poor family with 15 brothers and sisters, she grew up to know farm work, but she also loved to read. At 19, she married 27-year-old, college-educated P.C. Gatewood. It wasn’t very long before the beatings started. And continued.
In 1940, having borne him eleven children and endured near constant torment, she left him. Few outside her community knew the part of her story she left behind her. But everyone across America came to know “Grandma Gatewood,” the first woman to walk the entire Appalachian Trail—more than 2,000 miles—from Georgia to Maine. By herself.
Nature programs on TV can only go into so much detail about the fascinating history that underlies our beautiful world. After all, there are commercial breaks to consider and trying to produce a show for the most casual channel surfer. So viewers come away with an idea of what a place looks like—and maybe a few facts about it—but for the truly curious, there is a dearth of content.
Mountains of the Heart: A Natural History of the Appalachians, by Scott Weidensaul, has been a go-to classic for around 20 years. Written in a casual and fascinating yet scientifically accurate way, the narrative draws in readers who do not want to crack academic tomes on the subject but who do wish to learn more about the region’s alpine tundra and the still-living remnants of mighty chestnut trees.
In 2011, Jennifer Pharr Davis set a record by hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in 46 days. In her book, Called Again: A Story of Love, she shares what she learned there about the importance of planning, perseverance, teamwork, and faith, as well as the lessons that the rest of her life has taught her. Ms. Davis was named the 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for her feat and has since gone on to found her own company, Blue Ridge Hiking.
Learn more about Ms. Davis when she talks about her insights at the Porter Branch on Wednesday, September 30, at 7:00. Refreshments will be served. Look for signed copies of her book, which will be available for purchase.