Katherine Pettit

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Katherine Pettit
Born (1868-02-23)February 23, 1868
Fayette County, Kentucky
Died September 3, 1936(1936-09-03) (aged 68)
Occupation Educator

Katherine Rebecca Pettit (February 23, 1868 – September 3, 1936) was an American educator from Kentucky who contributed to the settlement school movement of the early 20th century.[1]


Born the child of Benjamin Pettit on a prosperous farm in Fayette County, Kentucky, Pettit attended two years at Sayre School in Lexington. A member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs, she became a progressive educator.[1][2]

Settlement schools[edit]

Under the auspices of by the Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs beginning in 1899, Katherine Pettit and May Stone spent three summers in social settlement work in Kentucky at Camp Cedar Grove, Camp Industrial (which later became the Hindman Settlement School), and Sassafras Social Settlement. Their journals, filled with words to local ballads and idiomatic expressions of their students and families from homes nearby, describe in detail their classes in health and homemaking, as well as teacher training.[3] A local elder Solomon Everage watched the two women—"quare fotched-on women from the level land,"[4]—for some time and eventually asked them to establish a permanent industrial school in the Troublesome Creek area.

Hindman Settlement School[edit]

In 1902 with financing from the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Katherine Pettit and May Stone co-founded Hindman Settlement School in Knott County, Kentucky.[2] Pettit said that the goal of Hindman was "to know all we can and teach all we can."[5] The Kentucky WCTU sponsored the school until 1915, when it was formally incorporated as a private, non-profit, non-sectarian, and non-denominational corporation.

May Stone remained at Hindman as principal until 1936. Many of the graduates remained in the area. Carl Perkins, a native of Hindman who served thirty-six years in the United States House of Representatives, was a graduate of the settlement school.

Pine Mountain Settlement School[edit]

In 1913, Pettit co-founded Pine Mountain Settlement School with Ethel deLong Zande in Harlan County, Kentucky. At Pine Mountain, Pettit directed outdoor work while Zande directed academics.[2]

Founding Pine Mountain as an example of the settlement movement, Pettit and deLong modeled the school after Hull House.[6] According to Berea College's Southern Appalachian Archives,

[Pettit and deLong] hoped that their modern ideas about health, nutrition, work efficiency, farm management, and the cultural value of indigenous crafts would permeate the surrounding communities -- both through the children, and through direct contact with adults.[6]

Pine Mountain Settlement School is a National Historic Landmark.[7]

Appalachian culture[edit]

Katherine Pettit labored to preserve and encourage the teaching of Appalachian culture through arts, folk songs, and customs.[2]

Her teachings on natural vegetable dyeing were recorded in The Katherine Pettit Book of Vegetable Dyes. Wilmer Stone Viner, who had worked at Pine Mountain Settlement School, published this in 1946 after moving from Kentucky to Saluda, North Carolina. Consequently, Pettit's recipes have influenced craft practices in western North Carolina.[8] The book, dedicated to the memory of Katherine Pettit, quotes a memorial tablet in the Pine Mountain Settlement School Chapel:

Katherine Pettit, 1869 - 1936, pioneer and trail-breaker. Forty years she spent creating opportunity for mountain children here and elsewhere. In life, she ever refused praise. In death, she is too great for it.[9]


  1. ^ a b "Katherine Pettit". Encyclopædia Britannica online. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Educators: Katherine Pettit". Women in Kentucky. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  3. ^ See The Quare Women's Journals: May Stone & Katherine Pettit's Summers in the Kentucky Mountains and the Founding of the Hindman Settlement School, Jess Stoddart, ed. Ashland, Ky.: Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1997.
  4. ^ Tabler, Dave. "Kentucky's fotched-on women," (September 8, 2010) Appalachian History: Stories, quotes and anecdotes. Accessed December 12, 2010. www.appalachianhistory.net/2010/09/kentuckys-fotched-on-women.html
  5. ^ "Mission & History". Hindman Settlement School. Archived from the original on 2008-05-19. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  6. ^ a b "Southern Appalachian Archives: Guide to Pine Mountain Settlement School Collection". Berea College. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  7. ^ "About PMSS". Pine Mountain Settlement School. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  8. ^ "Katherine Pettit". Hunter Library Digital Collections. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  9. ^ "The Katherine Pettit Book of Vegetable Dyes". Hunter Library Digital Collections. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 

Further reading[edit]

  • England, Rhonda. "Voices From the History of Teaching: Katherine Pettit, Mary Stone, and Elizabeth Watts at Hindman Settlement School, 1899-1957." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Kentucky, 1990.
  • Bullock-Pettit Family Papers, 1885-1968, 87M26, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Farr, Sidney Saylor. Appalachian Women: An Annotated Bibliography. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1981.
  • Katherine Pettit Papers, 1868-1937, KYSX216-A, Special Collections, Berea College, Berea, Ky.
  • Eberhardt, Ann Angel; Wykle, Helen Hayes. "Katherine Pettit". Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Retrieved 31 May 2016.