Central to the history of the Cherokee people was the Beloved Woman – Nanyehi or Nancy Ward (c. 1738-1822) was the best known of them. The first – and really only – book to present a comprehensive treatment of mountain culture is The Spirit of the Mountains (1905) by Emma Bell Miles. In the 1960s, when attention was turned to our mountain region, the novel that captured the attention of the nation was set in the region and had a female protagonist and a female author from the region – Christy (1967) by Catherine Marshall (1914-1983). Arguably the most loved protagonists of Appalachian novels are Gertie Nevels of The Dollmaker (1954) by Harriette Arnow, Lydia McQueen of The Tall Woman (1962) by Wilma Dykeman and Ivy Rowe of Fair and Tender Ladies (1988) by Lee Smith. The only two Appalachian books that have received the Pulitzer in General Non-Fiction were written by women: 1975 – Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. 2002 – Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution by Diane McWhorter. Many of the leading historical Appalachian writers are women, for example, Harriette Arnow (1908-1986), Mildred Haun (1911-1966), Mary Lee Settle (1918-2005), and Wilma Dykeman (1920-2006). Many of our leading contemporary fiction authors are women, for example, Dorothy Allison, Lisa Alther, Darnell Arnoult, Elizabeth Cox, Barbara Kingsolver, Sharyn McCrumb, Ann Pancake, Jayne Anne Phillips, Lee Smith, Crystal Wilkinson, and Meredith Sue Willis. The leading public intellectual from Appalachia is a woman – bell hooks. The leading poet from Southern Appalachia is Nikki Giovanni. The most popular contemporary recording artists of Appalachia are women – Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton.
-- George Brosi