Emma Bell Miles

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Radio Portraits inspired from women's diaries written 1779-1959

MapEmma Bell Miles 1879-1919
Writer and artist,
Author of Spirit of the Mountains

Born in Evansville, Indiana, Emma Bell moved to Signal Mountain near Chattanooga, TN when she was eleven years old. Showing obvious promise in drawing and writing, she was sent on scholarship in 1899 to St. Louis School of the Arts. Shortly after her mother died she married Frank Miles, an unskilled laborer from Signal Mountain. Her observance of mountain culture was the subject of her first book Spirit of the Mountain. Amazingly prolific, she supported her family through her published writings, lectures and naturalist drawings. Her personal life, recorded in her journals, reveals the harsh reality of raising five children in dire poverty. After a long and wasting illness, she finally succumbed to tuberculosis in 1919.

Spirit of the Mountain

Time was
When the beauty of the woods and
The wildness of the mountain was my joy
Freedom was to let my spirit fly in the blueness of these hills
And let mother nature clothe me as a garment
I sacrificed my sanity
For the love of a mountain man
Now the sin and shame of poverty
Beat me down so I can't stand

Chorus
Who'll rock that cradle, who'll sing that song
Who'll rock that cradle when I'm gone

Dream back the days
When my love and I would walk
In the darkening forest green
By the waterfall gathering the flowers
Wandering at will
In the perfect mountain air
Talking of the stars
Past the blooming of the dogwoods in the evening
But sickness came upon me
When my babies were born
My helpless man standing by
Aimless and forlorn

Chorus...

There is a cry of my soul for my sweet babies
When the black crow of hunger put them in the ground
God preserve my daughters
From a love like I have found
Lay me down
Let the wind weave me a shroud
From the hunger and the cold
Take my weariness away from me forever
Oh to sleep
When the sun is coming up
on the sighing ranks of pines
in the shadows of the haven I am longing

In the spirit of the mountains
I'll wander again
Let it be known I died for love
The love of a mountain man

Chorus...

Song Source:
Diary of Emma Bell Miles 1914-1915
, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville TN

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