Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South by Shirley Abbott

Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South

Shirley Abbott’s foray into the world of southern women is an amazingly interesting combination of personal memoir, history and narratives of southern women themselves, past and present.

“The difference between a lady and a belle is that the former has a multitude of responsibilities and hence a more solid power base, while the belle thinks only of herself.  Some women become ladies without ever having been belles; some remain belles all their lives, though not always successfully.”

As a northern woman, this world is completely foreign to me.  I have had southern friends, of course, but reading this book has given me a completely new perspective.  I loved the history and the stories Abbott presents in this work of non-fiction, and I was impressed at how much information was new to me.  I had no idea that women used sun bonnets to keep their hair clean, rather than keep out the sun, for instance.  I had no idea of the importance of liquor (ie, whiskey), for southern males – which of course, influenced southern women.  I especially found interesting the examination of the different classes in the south and their effect on each other.

While Abbott’s comments do jump around a bit, she never lost me – in fact, I felt as if I was sitting in the parlor listening to a wise woman tell me about her family (and southern) history.  I could have stayed listening to her all day.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1983
210 pages


About Suzanne

I'm a stay-at-home mom with three kids who loves to read.
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