Thursday, January 30, 2014

Granny's Pantry #12: The Cole Women

Granny's Pantry # 12

“What most people don’t understand about the Southern family is how deeply our roots are planted in the subsoil of the past. Nourished by ritual and fortified by necessity, out strength lies in the blood of all the generations who have gone before us…Like the faded daguerreotypes that hang from the walls of weather-beaten home places across the South, they are our heritage.”[1]
Freda Mae Morgan Cole  (Granny)
 The women in my family are Southern to the bone. They know about life outside of the

South. They read a lot, and they have traveled. But the South is where we are and who we are. I come from a long line of what is known as “Cole Women.” The ones I know who came before me are my grandmother, Freda Mae Morgan Cole (Granny) and her two daughters: Ruth Elizabeth Cole (Aunt Ruthie) and Martha Virginia Cole Johnson (my mother). Most of the other Cole Women earlier than that were before my time (except for Aunt Mayme, and that’s another story). 

Our branch of the Cole family has lived in Davidson County, North Carolina, since it was given a land grant in the 1700’s. My grandmother died in the Cole home place; my aunt, lost in dementia, struggles daily to get back to where she was born…and where she sleeps every night; and my mother now lives a mile down the road.

The Cole Women are a strange lot. A casual observer might see the quiet reserve and polite demeanor that marks so many women of the South. A closer inspection reveals qualities not unlike those of a diamond—beauty, hardness, and many-faceted cutting edges. One thing must be understood about the Cole Women. Author Lee Smith described them well when she wrote, "The biggest myth about Southern women is that we are frail types... fainting on our sofas. Nobody where I grew up ever acted like that. We were about as fragile as coal trucks."[2]

Ruth Elizabeth Cole (Aunt Ruthie) & Martha Virginia Cole Johnson  (Bid)

           She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Proverbs 31:25)

[1] Donna Ball, “Fingerprints,” in Donna Ball, Sandra Chastain, Debra Dixon, Virginia Ellis, Nancy Knight, and Deborah Smith, Sweet Tea & Jesus Shoes,  (New York, Berkley Books 2000), 42.
[2] Lee Smith, quoted on Southern Women Webring,,<>, 2 April 2003, Intro page.