By Jordan Brannen
While editing a few weeks ago, I came across a letter from Charles Swift from the Union Stockyards in Chicago. In this letter, Swift was replying to an appeal from Martha Berry, saying that he appreciates Miss Berry carrying on personal correspondence rather than personal solicitation. After reading this line I had to pause. From the modern day reader, one look at an appeal letter that Martha Berry sent and it immediately looks like personal solicitation. Then, as a historian, I tried to look at the letter with the context of a 1926 mindset. After thinking this way for just a short time, it was easy to see that while today Martha Berry’s letters look impersonal, at the time she was alive these letters were revolutionary. In an age where people could not hear about the struggles of the mountain kids from northwest Georgia on social media or television, letters in the mail were how people got their information. Receiving a personalized letter in the mail asking for help would have been much more powerful then, and this is largely why Martha Berry and the Berry schools were so successful. At the end of the letter Charles Swift promises to increase his one hundred dollars per year promise to one hundred and fifty dollars for the Berry.