Frances Elizabeth Adair Class of 1928

Frances Elizabeth Adair Class of 1928

Even though she had been an English major at Wesleyan, Frances Elizabeth Adair, A.B. 1928, never intended to become a writer. An extended bout of poison ivy gave her the opportunity; a box of newspaper clippings, notes, and other family memorabilia, along with her mother’s prodding, gave her the inspiration. The result was A Little Leaven, a thinly veiled fictional account of a group of Scotch-Irish tobacco growers who moved in the 1830s from Virginia to the Salacoa Valley in Cherokee County, Georgia. Based on the notes she found and her mother’s reminiscences, Frances fashioned a tale of the tobacco farmers as they settled in to their new land and built a community, including vivid descriptions of the old ways of soap-making, home herbal remedies, and mountain superstitions. Frances, a high school English teacher, sent her manuscript to publisher after publisher who found her writing poetic but the idiomatic language of the North Georgia hills confounding. Frustrated, Frances stowed the manuscript in an old trunk where she brought it out years later to show Dr. Rowland Burgess, president emeritus of Reinhardt College. Dr. Rowland was so impressed with her story that he arranged to have the manuscript published. A Little Leaven was praised for its vivid depiction of a way of life now long past. Atlanta Constitution writer Celestine Sibley wrote: “I like Miss Adair’s A Little Leaven very much, not only for the delightful old words (did you know “coronach” is a funeral song or dirge as heard in the Scotch Highlands and in Ireland?) but for a lot more. It is called a novel, but I have a feeling it is more a true, handed-down account of a group of real people.” Frances Adair said of her book, “The book teaches us of a period that has come and gone and will never return. It’s like looking through a glass window into the past.” Frances taught at Adairsville High School, also contributing articles to the Atlanta Journal Sunday magazine as well as to the Bartow Herald and the Tribune News. She died in 1989.