This post originally appeared on HerKentucky in November 2011. In honor of Women's History Month, I thought I'd re-share the impact that Mrs. Lloyd had on my family and my hometown.
The history of Alice Lloyd College sounds a whole lot like a heartwarming story made custom-made for ABC Family or the Hallmark Channel. A turn-of-the-century Boston Brahmin debutante turned newspaperwoman leaves her opulent New England life to found a school in the heart of Appalachia. She and her husband are soon estranged -- he moves back to the city -- but she remains in the mountains to further her mission. Soon, a determined young Wellesley aluma hears of the experiment and moves to Kentucky from her upstate New York home to serve the area. Their tenacity and "society connections" lead to a sustainable donor network, allowing for a free education for all. A century later, hundreds of Kentuckians owe their educational and professional success to these great ladies.
While this may be the stuff TV movies are made of, it's also the very real basis for countless educational opportunities in my hometown. Alice Spencer Geddes Lloyd, Radcliffe alumna, proto-feminist and editor/publisher of the Cambridge Press, moved to Knott County, Kentucky in 1915, with the goal of improving social and economic conditions. Along with Miss June Buchanan, Mrs. Lloyd soon founded a school in the Caney Creek area, which would become Alice Lloyd College.
Mrs. Lloyd's impact was felt in every corner of the tiny mountain community; the town itself was even re-namedfor the Browning poem "Pippa Passes", in a nod to both Mrs. Lloyd's literary leanings and an influential set of early donors. Her commitment to staid Yankee values shine through even upon a visit to the modern campus. The strict dress and moral code(no cosmetics or heeled shoes, no "consorting" with members of the opposite sex, sailor-style skirt-and-blouse uniforms for all women) of years past may have relaxed significantly, but Purpose Road and the If Guest Cottage (named, of course, for Kipling's ode to perseverance) serve as constant reminders of a sterner era.
My own family's history is so intertwined with the history of ALC that it's impossible for me to separate one story from the other. My paternal great-grandmother,
Rilda Slone Watson, grew up on Caney Creek,one of eight children. Most of the college's original buildings were designed and built by her brother, John Commodore Slone. Her sister, Alice Slone, went on to found a nearby school on the ALC donor-funding model. My great-grandmother herself worked for the college, assisting Miss Buchanan and manning the Exchange, dispersing the estate items that donors bequeathed to the university. (By all accounts, her office was a treasure trove.)
Over the years, Mrs. Lloyd's legacy has shaped my family's destiny in countless ways. By all accounts, the extended clan were a bookish, artistic lot, but the education and opportunities afforded by Mrs. Lloyd'sCaney Creek schools were truly remarkable for the time and place. My grandfather, an Appalachian teenager during the Great Depression, spent two summers in Massachusetts working on cranberry bogs and seeing the sites, due to a "work-study" arrangement Mrs. Lloyd set up for local kids. My great-great-aunt earned a B.A. from Ohio State in 1932. In the 1930s, a trip to Lexington from Caney Creek took at least a full day. I can't imagine the physical rigors of traveling to Columbus or Boston, and I certainly know that those doors would not have been opened without the influence of Mrs. Lloyd and Miss June. (Although my grandfather, a hardcore Literature teacher in his own right, contended to his dying day that Mrs. Lloyd was an unduly rigorous second grade teacher.)
The ALC campus has adapted to the twenty-first century, and many of the buildings of my childhood have made way for modern campus life. Still, the school remains a charming testament to Mrs. Lloyd's vision. You can learn more about the early days of Caney Creek Community Center here. And if y'all will excuse me, I've got a screenplay to write.