Cora Wilson Stewart

Crusader Against Illiteracy


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About the Book

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.

About the Author(s)

Willie Nelms lives in Winterville, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Willie Nelms

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 239
Bibliographic Info: photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 1997
pISBN: 978-0-7864-0334-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1000-9
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Highly recommended for all libraries”—Library Journal
  • “An interesting picture of the emerging public school system in early twentieth-century Kentucky…presents an objective assessment of Stewart’s work within the social and educational contexts of her time”—Libraries & Culture
  • “Nelms has done much to unveil Stewart’s personal life, picture her in the context of her times, and assess her accomplishments and shortcomings”—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
  • “Sets the triumphs and challenges Stewart faced in her 83-year life”—American Libraries.