About the Diary
Olive Dame Campbell is best known as a ballad collector, but she was also a social reformer in Appalachia in the first half of the 20th century. Her diary is the record of a trip that she and her husband, John C. Campbell, made in the fall of 1908 and the winter of 1909 to gather data for the Russell Sage Foundation about the social, religious, and economic conditions in the Southern Highlands. They interviewed missionaries, teachers, settlement school workers, and residents, going to out-of-the-way villages and towns on roads that were often nothing more than creek beds.
After her husband’s death in 1919, Olive Campbell assumed many of his duties, including the office of Secretary of the Council of the Southern Mountains, where she established its journal, Mountain Life and Work. Collecting her husband’s notes, she finished his book, The Southern Highlander and His Homeland. It was the first comprehensive history of Appalachia and is still a core text in the discipline of Appalachian Studies.
All the while, she continued to pursue her interest in folk songs, which she chronicles in the diary. Fascinated by Appalachian culture and the craftsmanship of mountain people, the Campbells hoped to help them value their work and to make their talents known. Her diary of their first investigative trip in the southern mountain region is an entertaining and enlightening account of the places the Campbells visited and the people they met, revealing intimate details of everyday life in Appalachia at the turn of the century.