March is Women's History Month as we pay tribute to generations of women and celebrate their accomplishments. The mountains and foothills of North Carolina have been home to several women now well known for their accomplishments and legacies in the history of traditional music and dance.
Celebrate Women's History Month by learning more about these historic artists and how they influence dthe traditions we enjoy today.
Etta Baker - Etta Baker was a master of the blues guitar style that became popular in the southern piedmont after the turn of the century. She was raised in the foothills of Caldwell County where music was central in the lives of her family and friends.
"Aunt" Samantha Bumgarner - Samantha Bumgarner of Sylva was one of the first women and first traditional Southern banjo players to record old-time mountain music. Best known as a banjo player, she played both fiddle and banjo on her 1924 recordings with Eva Davis which were among the earliest Southern string band records to be released.
Ola Belle Reed - One of thirteen children in a musical family in Lansing, North Carolina, Ola Wave Campbell (she changed her name to Ola Belle) became a prolific songwriter and performer. In 1986, she was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts for her banjo playing and singing.
Lulu Belle - Husband-and-wife country stars Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman had prominent music careers that included years of performing, recording, and even appearances in movies. They became known as the Hayloft Sweethearts, and Lulu Belle was voted the most popular female on the radio in 1936. They were stars of the WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago for 20 years.
Dellie Norton - Dellie Norton sang the old English and Scottish ballads that were carried to the Southern Appalachians with the first settlers of the region. She sang in the traditional way, unaccompanied and with richly ornamented melodies, and her repertoire favored old songs like "Lord Bateman" and "House Carpenter" that recall events of the deep past.
Mary Jane Queen - Mary Jane Queen lived in the Caney Fork section of Jackson County near where she was born in 1914. She sang for her own pleasure, performed with her family, and she happily shared her music with others. She sang songs brought by pioneering settlers from Ulster, old ballads formed in an earlier America, hymns and spirituals from both Baptist and Methodist traditions, and comic songs that derive from both the European and African American traditions.