Cover image for Cora Wilson Stewart : crusader against illiteracy
Cora Wilson Stewart : crusader against illiteracy
Nelms, Willie, 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., 1997.
Physical Description:
v, 233 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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LA2317.S826 N45 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In 1911 Cora Wilson Stewart founded the Moonlight Schools in Rowan County, Kentucky, an innovative night program that taught illiterate adults to read. Hoping that 150 people would attend the first classes, Stewart was amazed that over 1,200 men and women enrolled. She quickly developed reading material for these men and women that appealed to them instead of the children's texts that most educators were using with adults. With the success of the Moonlight Schools, Stewart moved forward in her crusade against illiteracy; she quickly became the most prominent advocate for the cause on both the national and international scene. Stewart took the fight against illiteracy at a time when it was an accepted part of American life. She shocked the nation when she pointed out that 25 percent of the men who signed up for the draft in 1917 could neither read nor write. From her beginnings in the mountains of Kentucky, she went on to chair the Illiteracy Section of the World Conference of Education Associations five times; she founded the National Illiteracy Crusade in 1926. She even received one vote for president at the 1920 Democratic convention. Her crusade came despite the fact she was a victim of domestic abuse who suffered through three failed marriages. Her life reflects the challenges faced by female reformers in the early part of the 20th century.

Author Notes

Willie Nelms lives in Winterville, North Carolina.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Few people today recognize her name, but in the early part of this century Stewart (1875-1958) was a nationally known crusader against illiteracy. As part of his continuing research into Stewart's life, begun in the 1970s, Nelms (director of the Sheppard Memorial Lib., Greenville, North Carolina) has written the first complete biography. Stewart served as the superintendent of schools in Rowan County, Kentucky, where she grew up. Her concern for illiterates led her to organize "Moonlight Schools" in 1911, which offered adults free evening classes in basic reading and writing skills. The classes were held in public school buildings and taught by volunteers. With the success of this venture, she went on to become a national and international crusader. Nelms has written a very readable and well-researched biography. As much as he may personally admire Stewart, his account is balanced, including successes and failings. Highly recommended for all libraries.¬ĎLinda L. McEwan, Elgin Community Coll., Ill. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.