In the spring of 1905, the Macmillan Company announced the publication of a new novel: “Published this Day, L.H. Hammond’s novel The Master-Word is an interesting story of present-day life in the phosphate counties of Tennessee. It is full of tense situations turning on the relations of races. But while the author writes as one who knows the difficulties, its tone is full of hopefulness, its atmosphere suggestive of Tennessee’s own ‘golden fall.’”1 A second ad, published a few weeks later, again noted the “present-day relations of the races,” but this time highlighted “a love-story as charming as the surroundings in which it is set—Tennessee’s own golden fall.”2 The ads seem designed to obscure the most controversial parts of the novel, with its interracial relationship and its not-so-tragic mulatta, and instead to direct potential buyers to think of the book as part of the “local color” genre popular with American readers at the turn of the century. The positive tones (“hopefulness,” “charming,” “golden”) belied the content, which included labor conflict, marital infidelity, violence, and racism. The ads also seem worded carefully to conceal the sex of the author, while still granting the book the imprimatur of an insider’s knowledge.3

Reviewers of The Master-Word were not fooled by the advertising, and most of them immediately honed in on the main issue: the mixed-race central character and the interracial relationship that had produced her. The Independent noted that “The initial situation is not attractive, but it has much truth. And the book is worthy of attention because it is the first compassionate, intelligent interpretation ever written by any white person, North or South, of that pathetic class of men and women who suffer the loneliness and humiliation of a peculiar condition.”4 The Christian Advocate wrote: “The painful and ever-present problem of the mulatto is dealt with by the author with great delicacy and power.”5 Most reviewers, from whatever region of the country, similarly made the interracial theme central in their comments and largely ignored the “charming” love story.

The Master-Word was Lily Hardy Hammond’s first novel, but not her first piece of published fiction. She had previously published at least two short stories and several poems in significant national venues.6 Those works had focused primarily on “the woman question,” and had presented Hammond’s reflections on the psychology of marriage. But, while contemporary marriage was still one of her themes, The Master-Word represented a bold departure from her previous work. The subject matter was, as contemporaries frequently phrased it, “delicate.” Written during the nadir of race relations in the South, when lynching rates were peaking and Jim Crow was settling rapidly across the land, The Master-Word dove deep into controversial political territory. Indeed many readers thought she had gone too far—even the New York Times found the topic so repulsive that it might have been better left untold.7

But Lily Hammond was only just getting started. The 1905 novel was followed by dozens of other publications—both fiction and non-fiction—through which Hammond carved out a place for herself as the spokeswoman of the Progressive-Era South’s more liberal white reformers. For almost two more decades, Hammond would use her typewriter to poke and prod the conscience of the white South, especially its evangelical Christians. Active in many organizations that were considered progressive on racial issues, she came to be recognized as one of the region’s experts on race relations and could be found as a speaker at most important meetings and conferences on race during the period. She was an activist in women’s voluntary organizations, an intellectual widely read in social welfare literature, and a “renaissance” woman who published fiction and non-fiction, both prose and poetry. Throughout these twenty years of activism, Hammond insisted that southern white women were the key to improving race relations in the region. Looking back from this perspective then, The Master-Word appears to be an important turning point in her career of literary activism. But the book has been out of print for years and scholars have yet to publish any analysis of it.

This essay turns attention to Hammond’s long-neglected novel, placing it in the context of the southern literary tradition and, more importantly, grounding it in the southern social gospel movement. It argues that Lily Hammond hoped to harness the power of the social gospel to improve race relations in the twentieth-century South. The novel intended to inspire southern white women to follow its lead, and provided a female protagonist to serve as a role model. In later works, such as In Black and White, Hammond would articulate even more strongly her conviction that the South could never solve its other social and political problems while ignoring the racial injustice that was related to so many of those other problems, and that women must lead the way. The Master-Word was much more than a charming love story, a local color portrait of the Tennessee phosphate country, or even an early entrant in the southern literary renaissance. Hammond’s novel stood as a piece of nuanced propaganda for the social gospel movement.

The Social Gospel Movement as Context

The social gospel emerged in the 1880s as a movement within Christianity that responded to the changing social and economic landscape of the United States during the so-called Gilded Age. Massive immigration, the developing industrial conglomerates, rapid urbanization, and more visible class stratification produced new social tensions that greatly troubled the native-born, white, middle classes. Their responses were varied and from all sides of the political spectrum: immigration restriction and disfranchisement, settlement houses and child saving, single-taxers and socialism. Many of these efforts coalesced into a larger, interconnected set of movements and activists that came to identify themselves as “progressives,” although the label suggests a more singular ideology than was accurate.8

Inspired from the beginning by religious writers, many progressives accepted without question the centrality of religion, churches, and the faithful in their many causes. “Social Christianity,” “liberal Christianity,” and the “Social Gospel” were all contemporary labels for the wing of religious activism that accompanied and contributed to the overall progressive movement. Unlike more traditional evangelical Protestantism, which focused on converting individuals, the new social Christianity took the salvation of society as a whole as its mission. Advocates of the social gospel argued that creating a just, peaceful, and humane world would bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, even if all its residents had not yet been saved. To these writers and reformers, it was more important to provide safe, healthy environments and to focus activism on economic justice than it was to convert individual sinners away from gambling or drinking. The social gospel asked Christians to think about the ways in which social and economic structures, not just individuals, could be redeemed from sin. Social institutions can become sources of injustice, greed, and vice, and the social gospel was a national movement to bring about a just society, or as Walter Rauschenbusch termed it, “Christianize the Social Order.” Supporting major progressive reforms such as organized labor, prohibition, and an expanding social welfare state, the social gospel might be seen as the religious wing of progressivism.9 While national in scope, the social gospel was a movement with which individuals primarily engaged in their local communities.10

Scholars have debated how best to understand the social gospel movement in America. Some have depicted it as so multifaceted as not to constitute a movement at all, but rather a network of movements. Some have emphasized its more radical nature, more “socialist” than social. Others have pointed out the relationship between the religiosity of the social gospel and the academic discipline of sociology.11 Up until quite recently, historians generally agreed that southerners appeared less open to the social gospel movement than were other Americans. And while it is accurate to say that few southerners ranked among the leadership of the national movement, nevertheless many in the region embraced the ideals of “civic righteousness” in this era of rising progressive sentiment. Charles S. Gardner was a professor of religion and sociology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the author of a social gospel text, The Ethics of Jesus and Social Progress (1914). Edgar Gardner Murphy and Alexander J. McKelway are probably the best known social gospel figures from the region. Southern Methodists in particular were drawn to this movement for a social Christianity.12

Indeed some historians have begun to undercover a larger social gospel presence in the South than previously believed, as they have looked beyond the most visible ministers and theologians such as Gardner, Murphy, and McKelway. Evidence of a broader social gospel movement, which included African Americans and women, can be found in less well-known (and often unpublished) sources: annual reports of women’s missionary societies, unpublished accounts from social workers, and other non-ministerial activities. Mary Agnes Dougherty has argued that the “essence of social Christianity” involved carrying out the gospel, not theorizing about it. And it was in the ranks of the activists where women were to be found in larger numbers.13

Scholars have also begun to look beyond the white churches to find additional evidence of a social gospel presence in the South.14 African-American churches began to open day care centers, homes for the elderly, employment bureaus, and night classes. Black ministers in larger cities, such as Henry Hugh Proctor of Atlanta, Sutton Griggs of Memphis, and John Milton Waldron of Jacksonville, Florida, led the movement to create socially active churches. African-American churchwomen, such as Lucy Craft Laney, Lugenia Burns Hope, and Nannie Helen Burroughs, all carried out their commitment to a Christian society through both religious and secular organizations.15 Although no historian has gone so far as to claim that the social gospel dominated southern Protestantism, in the wake of recent scholarship it is clear that more southerners—black and white—welcomed and advocated for a new social Christianity than we once thought.

The lack of concern that the social gospel movement demonstrated regarding race relations undoubtedly facilitated its movement into the South. The social gospel emerged at a time when the nativist movements were gaining strength in the United States, and some activists seemed to blend the two with ease. Lyman Abbott supported American intervention in Cuba in 1898, believing it would be an opportunity to bring liberal Christianity to the island.16 Most (in)famously, Josiah Strong argued that Anglo-Saxons were the chosen people and America was the chosen place for the coming Kingdom of God on Earth. America’s Christians had an obligation to spread their high ideals to the rest of the world.17 Few social gospel advocates were as outspoken as Strong, but few were interested in adopting racial equality as part of their agenda either. The most definitive statement of the precepts of the social gospel, the Social Creed of the Churches (adopted in 1908 by the Federal Council of Churches), avoided explicit commentary about race.18

Historian Paul Harvey has argued that southern social gospel supporters did not ignore race relations entirely, but they were never able to reach a consensus on how to handle “the Negro question.” For most southern white reformers, the solution was to focus their energies on helping poor whites, and hope that better educated whites would treat their black neighbors more equitably.19 Otherwise, most southern supporters of the social gospel remained silent on matters of race. Presbyterian theologian Walter L. Lingle, for example, never discussed segregation, inequality, or lynching as concerns of the social gospel although he was a leading southern proponent of the movement.20 Eventually Lily Hammond would emerge as one of the few southern white progressives unwilling to accept that passive, “trickle-down,” approach to race relations. By the 1910s, she would come to insist on a more activist agenda, which would be carried out by more ecumenical organizations such as the Southern Sociological Congress and the Young Women’s Christian Association.

The New South as Context

One could argue that immigration, urbanization, and industrialization did less to disrupt social relations in the late-nineteenth-century South than did the Civil War, Reconstruction, emancipation, and the emergence of sharecropping as a labor system. Regardless of the degree of causation, the end result was similar: by the turn-of-the-century, many native-born middle-class southern whites were appalled and unnerved at what they saw around them. Like their peers in northern and midwestern cities, they began to form organizations and movements to address the problems of what had quickly come to be called the New South. The sudden boom in textile manufacturing caused southern progressives to focus on child labor and women workers, and to lobby for age restrictions, hours limitations, and other protective labor laws. The deepening poverty of sharecroppers (black and white) and the highly visible rural poverty in general concerned health reformers and educators, who organized public health campaigns and public school crusades. The growth of urban industrial centers, such as Birmingham and Richmond, generated numerous social, cultural, and political stresses, and in response urban dwellers of both sexes formed clubs, founded asylums, and built other institutions. Thanks in part to the growing national media, southern activists quickly came to identify with others elsewhere engaged in their same causes. Reading essays and articles in Harper’s, The Outlook, and Charities and the Commons, southerners from the tenements of Chicago could still see themselves as part of a national settlement house movement, or a national prohibition effort, or a national anti-tuberculosis campaign.21

Historians have long debated how “progressive” the southern branch of the movement was, or how “southern” it might have been. It is not my intention to return to that particular discussion here. But for purposes of understanding Lily Hammond’s work and the place of the social gospel in the South, it is important to understand the centrality of race as a complication for the progressive movements in the region. Quick to play the race card in opposition to any threatening political, social, scientific, or cultural innovation, southern white conservatives wielded tremendous direct power and indirect influence throughout the region. Reformers who wish to open free kindergartens, offer home care by visiting nurses, provide mothers’ pensions, train social workers, and any number of other initiatives found themselves on the defensive against charges that their plans would endanger white supremacy or challenge the racial status quo. Most southern progressives felt they had little choice but to segregate their services or provide them to whites only. And when separate, the services often had to appear to be clearly unequal as well.22

This Jim Crow progressivism had the effect of reducing the potential impact of reforms by significantly diluting them. Providing two sets of public schools, for example, was more expensive and thus reduced the amount spent on both white children and black children. It also created space for African-American reformers to create their own institutions to fill the needs left unmet by discriminatory social welfare systems. Black women’s clubs raised funds to operate separate “reformatories” for black youth; black churches conducted day nurseries for working mothers; black nurses served the public health clinics in black neighborhoods. African-American church workers, clubwomen, and professionals often worked in a separate, parallel universe of progressive activism. Sometimes labeled “racial uplift” rather than progressivism, black reform activism nevertheless took its place underneath the large umbrella of progressivism.23

White Southerners who worked on behalf of progressive causes frequently found themselves working directly with African-American reformers, and for some white reformers the experience proved enlightening. Even as they had to defend their reforms against attacks by white conservatives who tried to label their efforts as threats to white supremacy, southern white progressives learned new respect for their black middle-class counterparts. White reformers found it to be a difficult balancing act, working with and on behalf of their black neighbors while simultaneously arguing that they were not challenging the racial status quo. A small number of southern whites found the cognitive dissonance to be intolerable, and they began more openly interracial work such as with the Urban League, the YWCA, or the NAACP.

The Author as Activist

One such southern white activist was Lily Hammond. Hammond has yet to receive much biographic attention, thanks in good measure to the absence of known family papers or other archival holdings. What little we know of her life can be quickly summarized. Lily Hardy was born in 1859, to parents who both were from slaveholding families but who had relocated to the North on the eve of the Civil War. Her father, Henry G. Hardy, worked as a stock broker and, by the time of the 1870 census, had moved the family to Clarkstown, New York, just north of New York City. Few details have surfaced about her childhood, other than the fact that she was educated at the prestigious Packer Institute in Brooklyn, which today describes itself as “the preeminent school for girls for much of the latter 19th century.”24 The historical record does not clarify whether Lily ever attended college. Even without higher education she was clearly well read, and her writings are filled with references to a wide range of literature and social commentary.

Hammond wrote that she first visited New York tenement houses as a teenager and volunteered in an urban mission until her worried family put a stop to it.25 This undated event, which would have taken place in the mid-1870s (during the great depression of that decade), occurred well ahead of the urban reform efforts that would take firmer shape in the 1890s as a national progressive movement. To put this into a chronological context, remember that Jane Addams did not open Hull-House in Chicago until 1889 and that Jacob Riis did not write his exposé on the tenements of New York until 1890. The teenaged Lily Hardy thus had a precocious experience with urban reforms, long before most of her southern contemporaries.

Very shortly after her truncated forays into the tenements, Lily married a Methodist minister from Georgia, John Dennis Hammond. Born in 1850 in Franklin, Georgia, John was the son of an attorney and slaveholder. John graduated from the University of Georgia in 1870 and from Drew Theological Seminary in New Jersey in 1875. The first student from Georgia ever to attend Drew, he received training there that was far more liberal than he would have obtained at any similar southern institution at the time.26 After graduation, John returned to Georgia and at the time of their marriage in 1879, he was serving in the Oconee Street Methodist Church in Athens. The newlyweds soon commenced the pattern of frequent relocations typical of Southern Methodist clergy.27

In 1886, the Hammonds were sent to Missouri, where John was initially assigned to pastor the First Methodist Church of St. Louis, and later was appointed president of a Methodist college in Fayette. Their children, Henry, Katherine, and Frances, were born in 1887, 1889, and 1893. Despite the demands that a growing family would have entailed, Lily launched herself into women’s missions work during these same years. By 1895 Lily was appointed to the “Leaflets and Education” committee of the regional women’s missions organization. Her first publication, entitled “The Parsonage and Home Mission Reading Course,” was written on behalf of the committee tasked with creating a reading course for Southern Methodist women. She recommended two books: Our Country, by Josiah Strong, and Applied Christianity, by Washington Gladden.28 These were popular texts by two prominent writers from the social gospel movement. By these choices, Lily was clearly identifying herself with the social gospel and was encouraging other Southern Methodist women in that direction as well.

Lily Hammond’s career as a social reformer and social gospel activist was accelerated when her husband’s ministry relocated them to one of the vibrant centers of Southern Methodism and New South urban development. In 1898, John was appointed the secretary of the Board of Education of the Southern Methodist church and the family moved to Nashville, Tennessee. From this post, the couple launched extensive reform careers, which would bring each of them into positions of leadership in their respective circles. From Nashville, Lily worked her way into the center of southern white liberalism of the early-twentieth century.29

Lily Hammond quickly emerged as a leader in the world of Southern Methodist women’s home missions. The women’s home missions movement had spread rapidly across the region, and by 1908, almost 60,000 Southern Methodist women had joined.30 Lily Hammond was recognized as “among the first women of the Church to rally to support” the movement. In 1898, the first year of her residence in Nashville, Lily was elected first vice-president of the new Woman’s Board of Home Missions. The following year, when the Southern Methodist women decided to establish a Bureau of Social Service, Lily was chosen as its first superintendent.31 Thus, as early as the turn of the century she was widely known and respected by Southern Methodist women as a leader in their domestic reform efforts.

Moreover, Nashville was a friendly environment for Hammond’s developing views on racial justice, for she found there several kindred spirits. She became a close friend and coworker with Kate Trawick, a leader in the YWCA movement and a leading advocate of extending the Y’s benefits to African-American women.32 Another prominent Nashville woman, Sara Estelle Haskin, also worked to build a black YWCA, holding meetings for black workers at a local mill. Editor of the Methodist youth journal, The Young Christian Worker, Haskin also was a leader in the Bethlehem settlement house movement. (“Wesley house” was the name Southern Methodist women gave to their settlements for whites; “Bethlehem house” was the name given to their settlements for African Americans.)33 Nashville thus offered Lily an environment more receptive to racial reforms than most places the Hammonds might have been assigned to live.

So it was from Nashville, surrounded by supporters of interracial work, that Lily Hammond published The Master-Word in February 1905. A talented writer who would work in a variety of genres in her lifetime, she chose fiction as the medium for a social gospel message. Other social gospel activists, especially women, also turned to art and literature during this period as a vehicle for sharing their ideas about the effort to hurry the arrival of the Kingdom of God. Social Christianity became an interdisciplinary movement, and journals like “The Dial” employed poetry, book reviews, advertisements, and feature stories, all based on the belief that imaginative works could dramatically present the message of social Christianity. The Master-Word was one of hundreds of social gospel novels published between 1870 and 1930.34 But it was one of the few that made race relations its central concern.

Contemporary reviewers offered a decidedly mixed set of assessments of the book. Because Hammond did not create an overtly didactic piece of work (as did Frances Harper in Iola Leroy), readers could sometimes find in The Master-Word whatever they wanted to see. Some southern whites could conclude that Hammond was “a woman in keen sympathy with whites of her section.”35 One such reader commented: “The writer is correct in saying that it is ‘in full accord with Southern thought and hopes.’”36 Some southern critics, like an unnamed reviewer in the Montgomery Advertiser, saw in the story a cautionary tale about the “Black Peril that threatens always the South.” The reviewer drew the conclusion that the message of the book was that “The negro can be truly lifted only as the white race lifts him.… They are the child race of the world. They need leading, teaching, control, and always from above.”37 One can envision Hammond squirming uncomfortably at that, for her own views on race were considerably more complex. She worried more about a white peril than about a black one.

Other Southern reviewers were more concerned that there was danger in such a story. At this time a tale like this may be too readily considered as typical, and an exceedingly rare characters [sic] accepted in certain quarter as common types of southern men. Clearly such is not Mrs. Hammond’s view. The author is to be commended for having her characters show a sense of responsibility toward the unfortunate child.38

Some non-southern reviewers assumed that she spoke “with absolute truthfulness,” such as this review from Massachusetts:

The tale will attract by the novelty of its situations and the faithfulness of its reproduction of a life with which few are familiar at the North. It is a convincing volume, in its way, because its author’s heart was in her work, and is written with that fluency which seems to belong by right of heritage to the women of the South.39

The most balanced assessment was probably that of the reviewer in the national journal The Independent. “The book will not please white people North or South; it is too awfully right for a certain element of the South, too lacking in sentimentality for some people in the North.”40

Immediately after the publication of The Master-Word, Hammond was taken ill. It is not hard to imagine that the stress of publishing her book—or reading the reviews of it—may have contributed to her ill health. She was unable to write during the period she was in recuperation, and did not begin to publish again until 1910, with a couple of short articles in Southern Methodist journals. Her next significant publication (“The White Man’s Debt to the Negro”) did not occur until 1913. Clearly, whatever ailed her had been serious enough to interrupt her writing for nearly a decade.41

Even if the stress of the political controversy over her book had contributed to her illness, Hammond did not shy away from similar work after her health was restored. In books and articles, she continued her activism till very near the end of her life. Indeed, as time went on, her work became even more pointed. Her best-known book, In Black and White, published in 1914, was a very direct critique of the shortcomings of the white South. It laid the blame for the South’s racial conflicts squarely on the shoulders of the region’s whites and gave them full responsibility for improving race relations. Hammond accompanied her later literary activism with membership in organizations such as the Southern Sociological Congress and the NAACP, devoting less attention to the work of the Methodist women’s home missions.

In the years after World War I, her husband’s declining health and retirement from the ministry, along with her own physical frailty, steadily reduced Lily’s activism. New organizations such as the Committee on Interracial Cooperation and the NAACP had her support, but she no longer had the ability to offer them much leadership. She and John had moved to New York in 1919 to be closer to their adult children, and their deaths (John in 1923 and Lily in 1925) were rendered almost invisible by their distance from the South. Neither of them received much recognition or memorial by southern reform organizations, or even by the Methodist community they had led for so many decades. Unlike some of her progressive-era peers whose stories have been recovered of late, Lily Hammond’s life and career have received little historical attention.

The Master-Word: The Plot

The Master-Word opens with Margaret Lawton, devoted wife and mother, sitting by the bedside of her critically injured husband, Philip. The Lawtons are a comfortable rural elite family in late-nineteenth-century Tennessee (an exact time period is never identified in the text, but it is clear that Hammond intended the story to represent her present day). The Lawtons have two young children, and several African-American servants complete the household. Thrown from a buggy, struck on the head and unconscious, Philip’s life is hanging in the balance and Margaret is distraught at the possibility of losing him. She has seen her life as idyllic and her love for her husband is deep.

While Philip lies in bed, a mulatto woman (“three parts white”) enters the house, and demands of Margaret that Philip pay the money he owes her before he dies. Margaret learns in horror that the woman had born Philip a child, a daughter nearly the same age as Margaret’s own daughter. He had promised the woman money to support the child, in exchange for her silence. Margaret’s heart is broken; she considers a divorce but decides against it, for the sake of her own children. She vows to protect the family’s good name by continuing to keep Philip’s secret, but her love for him is gone. Philip begs for her forgiveness, but she is unable to overcome the betrayal of her marriage and offers him no comfort. (It is the adultery that Margaret focuses on, not the race of the woman involved, which does not seem to be the issue to her.) On his deathbed, he tells her that her unbending adherence to goodness and truth has broken him, that he has finally seen she was right all along. He has found peace, and asks her once more to forgive him. Greatly moved by Philip’s declaration, Margaret concludes that she was wrong to withhold her forgiveness, but before she can say it, he is gone.

After Philip’s death, Margaret decides to try to right his wrong by providing an education and upbringing for the mulatto child. She brings the girl Elvira, known as Viry, to live in her house, explaining to all that the girl is the orphaned relative of her house servant, Aunt Dilsey. Viry will work for the Lawtons, but will also be raised and educated by Margaret. She will be sent to school and later to college. Margaret decides that Viry will one day be a school teacher and will work to uplift her race. Viry of course knows nothing of these plans, nor does she know the details of her parentage.

Viry grows up as friend, playmate, and servant to the Lawton children, Bess and Dick. Another member of their circle is neighbor Bruce, who plays with them all but has an instinctive dislike of Viry, and finds her blue eyes disturbing in a “colored” child. Aunt Dilsey, the elderly mammy figure, is the only other character who knows the truth of Viry’s genealogy. It is also Dilsey’s role to teach all the children—black and white—the ways of race in turn-of-the-century Tennessee. In one scene, Aunt Dilsey tells little Bess that she is not to carry the heavy chair, but Viry can because “hit don’ hurt niggers ter tote cheers w’at’s too big fer um”(46).\ The children have to learn about the complexity of race in a world where generations of racial mixing have created a bewildering array of colors that vividly deny the social constructions of race as “black” and “white.”

“But Viry—” [Bess] put her head on one side and surveyed her companion critically —”you isn’t a nigger; you’s white.”

“Aunt Dilsey say I’s a nigger,” said Viry, finally.

“Well, you isn’ “—Bess, bold as she was, caught her breath as she found herself on the edge of this heretical contradiction of authority. “You look like you’s white,” she said doubtfully (49).

Aunt Dilsey intervenes in this discussion to explain: “[D]is yere chile is er nigger, en she ain’t got ter fergit hit one minnit. Come yere.” Viry came obediently, a puzzled look on her little face as she saw the troubled earnestness on Aunt Dilsey’s. “I knows you ain’t black on de outside like me en Par’lee, Elviry,” she said solemnly; “but dat’s des skin-deep. Ef I wuz ter peel off dis yere skin er yo’n, you’d be ez black ez me underneaf. Don’ you en Bess fergit hit; you’s black. En black folks b’longs wid black folks, en ef dey does diffunt, old Satun gits um, sho’. You en yo’ Miss Bess kin be good frien’s, same ez Miss Marg’ret en my Eb’neezer is good frien’s; but Eb’neezer, he er nigger, en he know hit, en Miss Marg’ret know hit, too; she de lady, en he de servant; en hit’s des daterway wid you en Bess. De onlies’ place w’at’s w’ite in Viry,” she went on impressively, “is her soul. De lawd puts w’ite souls in eve’ybody” (52).

In Aunt Dilsey’s world, as for most southerners of her time, anyone with any amount of black ancestry is defined as black. The children eventually absorb these lessons and accept them as fact. Hammond’s message here was subtle, but important: “race” is learned, and by implication can be unlearned.

While the children are being schooled on race relations, the New South comes to their county and dramatically changes the context in which their stories intertwine. Phosphate ore is discovered in the region, and Margaret reluctantly gives in to the pressure to mine the phosphates found on her extensive properties. Although the phosphate mines bring jobs, wealth, and a sense of doing good for others (her son Dick especially sees the benefits of phosphates as fertilizers to help poor farmers produce better crops), the new industry also disrupts social relations. Newcomers, mostly single, black, male workers, move in. Crime increases. Local politicians buy votes with whiskey, and elections are completely corrupted. Margaret tries to help improve the troubled neighborhood first through charity, and later through supporting progressive reforms such as settlements and kindergartens. By contrast, the white men of the county attempt to “improve” the neighborhood by disfranchising black men. Although she never states directly that white men are the source of racial problems, Hammond puts the most racially offensive comments in the novel into the mouths of male characters. All the violence in the novel likewise comes at the hands of white men. The white women of the story demonstrate varying levels of racial tolerance.

The years pass, and the children go to school and then to college. Viry struggles to find a place for herself in the world. Raised in a wealthy white family that accepts her without judgment, she comes to loathe the poor black children she sees all around her. Although she loves Aunt Dilsey, Viry feels close to no other black person. She dutifully gets her teaching credentials as Margaret had planned, but hates being allowed to teach only black children. She identifies with whites, but knows that she is rejected by them. The only place for Viry seems to be in the home of Margaret Lawton.

In the meantime, all the young characters decide on their careers and commence courtships. Bess has numerous suitors, but adopts a carefree belle-like approach to them all. The neighbor Bruce has fallen in love with Bess, but believes he cannot ask her to marry him until he is financially independent. Viry secretly loves Bruce, but since he is white, she knows she can never act on her love. That secret love, along with the other painful emotions packed into her troubled life, festers in the young woman and eventually drives her to attempt suicide with an overdose of laudanum.

Margaret discovers the overdose in time and saves Viry’s life, but the suicide attempt has made her understand just how desperately unhappy Viry is and how hard it is for her to fit in to a world so divided by race. During an impassioned confrontation, Margaret finally tells Viry the truth about her father and how she had come to live in the Lawton home. She implores the troubled young woman to let go of her anger and pain, and instead find a life of service and love. Viry, impressed by the sacrifice she now understands Margaret has made for her, is overwhelmed with love and respect, which gives her the ability to forgive. She resolves to model herself after Margaret, and live a life of service and love (the “master-word”). The love-story with its charming ending belongs to Bess, not to Viry. Bess has feigned disinterest in Bruce and all other suitors throughout most of the novel. In the final chapters, however, Hammond has Bess acknowledge her own long secret love of Bruce. Viry finds no such happiness, but in the final pages Hammond introduces a character that readers are left to imagine Viry will one day fall in love with—Johnson Tyree, a dignified, well-educated, black doctor just arrived in town. Once Viry accepts her life of service and sacrifice, it would seem natural for her to be drawn to the doctor and for the two of them to begin lives of service together.

The Master-Word: The Literary Context

Lily Hammond built upon a long tradition of southern women writers whose domestic fiction carried political commentary. In the antebellum era, several important southern women novelists used domestic settings to emphasize the importance of home, women’s traditional gender roles, and folkways to defend the region’s superior civilization. Elizabeth Moss has described this as waging ideological warfare through domestic fiction, books written exclusively by women for women. Although domestic fiction had emerged in New England in the 1820s in response to regionally specific conditions of the northeast, southern writers took up the genre, merged it with the plantation fiction popular in the same years, and made it their own. Southern domestic novelists commanded a respectable following. Caroline Hentz sold 93,000 copies of her novels over three years, and Augusta Evans claimed late in her career that her combined works had sold over 425,000 copies. Like northern domestic fiction, which criticized fluffy ornamental women, the southern variety glorified the virtuous, resolute, noble plantation mistress at the expense of the frivolous belle. It was clear that the future of southern civilization rested with the former rather than the later.42

Beginning in the 1880s, domestic fiction was pushed aside by the popularity of “local color” fiction and romance novels. Local color or “regional fiction” dominated the literary scene, meeting a national demand for stories of simpler times, rural values, and just plain folk. The South was probably the region most associated in the public mind with local color literature, and several southern women were important figures in this group. One of the most widely read was “Charles Egbert Craddock,” the pen name for Mary Noailles Murfree, who published a collection of local color stories called In the Tennessee Mountains in 1884, popular enough to warrant seventeen editions in two years.43 According to scholar Ann Douglas, the local colorists were the group of women that received the most literary respect in this era, certainly more so than the domestic or sentimental fiction. They were also more conscious of themselves as literary professionals, serious writers of serious material.44

The local color literature had two different directions. One was toward realism. The realistic writers attempted to record accurately the pattern of life they observed, preserving a record of a fading culture. Joel Chandler Harris’s retelling of the folk tales of his region was—at least in part—an attempt to preserve actual stories in the oral tradition that were rapidly being lost in a changing society. The other strain in local color writing was a retrospective sentimentalism, a wistful look back at a romantic past. Novels and stories such as those by Thomas Nelson Page glorified life in the antebellum South. Many of the writers in this tradition also regarded slavery as a benign institution, a social arrangement that brought out the best in both races.45

Elements of Hammond’s work might be categorized as local color. And it appears that she (or her publisher) hoped to link her work to that popular genre.46 The Master-Word’s main plot, the interracial relationship and the mulatta offspring, could have taken place anywhere in the South, but Hammond made it quite specific to the Tennessee phosphate region. She used the setting to include detailed descriptions of the phosphate mining process, the environmental destruction it caused, and the labor conflicts surrounding it. Significant phosphate deposits had in fact been discovered in Tennessee in the late-1880s and early-1890s, creating frontier boom conditions and instability in the region. Hammond had clearly done a lot of research on this, and the portrait is convincingly realistic. Some reviewers categorized The Master-Word as part of the local color genre. Writing in the South Atlantic Quarterly, “E.M.” compared Hammond’s work to that of James Lane Allen, a contemporary from Kentucky who also wrote in the local color tradition.47

Another sign of the local color influence was Hammond’s use of dialect. From the opening pages, she presents the speech of black characters in dialect. To most twenty-first-century readers, dialect seems like shocking racial stereotyping by the author. But to Lily’s contemporaries, the use of dialect was more complicated than that. One way to help create a sense of authenticity in local color fiction was to attempt to represent the local dialect, meaning both pronunciations and regionally specific phrases and expressions. This meant that dialect was both white and black, southern and non-southern—and it swept the nation. As Gavin Jones has written, “Late-nineteenth-century America was crazy about dialect literature.” “Black dialect, Appalachian dialect, Pike County dialect, Maine dialect, New Yorkese dialect—every region was mined for its vernacular gold…. New and often baffling systems of orthography were invented to capture spoken sounds, and authors waged battles over whose dialect was most correct.” For four decades, “highbrow” literary magazines such as The Century and Harper’s were filled with dialect sketches. Dialect was so popular because it satisfied a vast range of motivations, North and South.48 Bret Harte’s southwestern dialect stories, James Whitecomb Riley’s “Hoosier” poems, and John Hay’s Pike County Ballads were all examples of dialect used for the purpose of regional authenticity. And of course, since The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is entirely narrated by Huck, it was entirely narrated in dialect.49

The Master-Word, then, can be seen as part of the local color genre, with its attendant use of dialect as a tool for realistic depiction of southern life. However, as a novel with a message advocating change, the book fits this category imperfectly. On the one hand, Hammond does evoke nostalgia for a rural Tennessee rapidly being destroyed by phosphate mining. The land is being permanently altered; the fields that had been the pride of generations are disappearing. On the other hand, Hammond was advocating the destruction of the racial system traditionally associated with that rural economy. Unlike Joel Chandler Harris, she was not attempting to preserve a record of a culture before it was lost. Instead, she was trying to change that culture.

Other local color writers, such as Sherwood Bonner, centered their stories on romances of reunion. Typically a southern belle and a northern officer meet during the Civil War or Reconstruction, fall in love, and after overcoming the opposition of their families, they marry and thus help to bind the country back together. “Reconstruction romances” or “border romances” were part of a larger national effort to write away the sectionalism of the past, and come to understand the nature of the recently reunited nation and its future course. Nina Silber and other scholars have explored the gendered nature of this national discussion, with the South represented by a delicate woman while a virile, energetic man symbolized the victorious North.50 Lily Hammond, by contrast, wrote a local color romance that had nothing to do with reunion or sectional reconciliation. Her characters are southerners with numerous northern connections (they travel, they have friends in the north), but none of the several romances in the book had any sectional component to them. In fact, the Civil War and Reconstruction were absent entirely in The Master-Word. We see no local Confederate heroes, we hear no tales of buried family silver or faithful family slaves. The novel is solidly located in the New South, but one which seems surprisingly disconnected from the Old South. In one sense, by critiquing the New South, especially the disruption of social relations being produced by industrialism, Hammond was condemning the results of sectional reconciliation. The New South economy, modeled on the industrial and urban northeast, was creating a host of new problems that were only just beginning to be discussed in 1905. Although certainly not attempting to serve as an exposé like those by Ida Tarbell or Upton Sinclair, Hammond’s novel nevertheless tried to do what the muckrakers were doing: bring a social problem to light in hopes that the scrutiny would produce a solution.

The Master-Word may also be seen as part of the southern literary renaissance. Although for many years scholars accepted without question Allen Tate’s definition of the renaissance (a backward glance as the South re-entered the larger world after World War I), more recently both his periodization and his definition of the movement have been vigorously contested. Carol Manning’s well-known critique of the history of the southern renaissance pushed us to see the literary awakening as inspired by turn-of-the-century social tensions rather than the Great War’s great disillusionments. Some southerners, she wrote, especially southern white women, began to write fiction that dissected the region’s culture much earlier than the Nashville Agrarians. Frequently described as artists ahead of their time, Ellen Glasgow and Kate Chopin are the best known examples of southern women writers re-interpreted as standing at the beginnings of the southern renaissance.51

Most recently, some scholars have virtually abandoned the term “renaissance” for this era. Bertram Wyatt-Brown substituted the phrases the “southern efflorescence” and the “regional literary efflorescence,” and preferred to think of the writers as part of a larger “modernism.” “In the late-nineteenth-century American South,” he wrote, “women writers—not their male colleagues—were the first ‘moderns’ of southern literature. More accurately we might label them transitional romanticists or transitional modernists, for they stood halfway between the old literary ways and the new.”52 Similarly Thomas L. McHaney argued for an enlarged context: “But Modernism was in southern soil early enough; and the literary movement usually called the Southern Renascence was, in reality, a southern branch office of the Midwestern division of the North American franchise of that international movement in the arts that flourished in Paris, London, Milan, Munich, and other capitals during the second and third decades of the twentieth century.”53 In this sense then, The Master-Word was part of the early-twentieth-century effort to critique southern culture and politics from the inside. Long before H.L. Mencken condemned the South for its cultural stasis, writers and reformers like Hammond were holding up bits of southern culture to the light and examining them without flinching.

The Master-Word is also part of the turn-of-the-century wave of social gospel novels.54 At first glance, present-day readers might not see this book as reflecting any religious position. Hammond never uses the phrase “the social gospel,” nor does she talk about Jesus, salvation, or Christianity. But The Master-Word follows the plot line of the typical social gospel novel, as described by scholar Janet Olson: a protagonist has his or her insulated, middle-class, peace of mind shattered by an encounter with the poverty and despair of a working class character. The shaken hero or heroine investigates the circumstances, acknowledges the consequences of unethical industrial capitalism, and finally accepts personal moral responsibility as a Christian and a citizen. In the process of helping others, the middle-class characters rediscover the simple Christian message of love and brotherhood.55 Hammond’s unique contribution to this literature was to substitute race for class, and to make the setting the New South.

The social gospel message of The Master-Word is not as overt as in the novels of Charles M. Sheldon (the most famous and most prolific of the genre), which asked pointedly “what would Jesus do?” Instead, Hammond implies the question should be “what can one woman do?”56 As an answer, the book gently models a social gospel life. Scholar Susan Lindley has observed that social gospel novels urged “readers toward a particular set of values and course of actions, hoping to touch their emotions more than their intellect.”57 This encouragement need not be as direct as a sermon. As Erin Smith has noted, social gospel novels were supposed to move readers to “social action. That is, one reads not in order to contemplate abstract ideas or to improve oneself, but in order to change the world.”58 In the case of The Master-Word, Margaret Lawton modeled a social gospel response to a series of challenges, providing an example for other women of how to raise their children, how best to live as part of a community, and how to steer a new course through race relations in the twentieth-century South. Readers could not help but be inspired by the character, since Hammond made sure that her flaws were few and that all the other characters adored her.

Margaret possesses all the female virtues cherished by her class. She never has a concern for herself; her energies are directed outward, to helping everyone around her. Devoted to her children, they in turn adore her. Margaret’s inner strength sees her through the crisis of her husband’s injury and death. After Philip’s death, Margaret proves to be an astute manager of the estate and indeed ultimately turns more profit than he had done, despite her insistence that the workers’ cabins must be improved and their health maintained. The family’s fortunes are greatly increased under her management.59 Margaret treats her servants like family, and they too are loyal to the end. Ebenezer, the black farm manager, describes her as “a cross between a humming-bird and an angel.”

All of those qualities would have been familiar goals for antebellum southern ladies, but Margaret possesses additional qualities that postbellum southern matrons required. Where an antebellum southern lady had a quiet nobility (think of Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind), Margaret Lawton emerges as a strong southern matron in the wake of Philip’s accident and betrayal, capable of dealing firmly even with her husband. Just before his death, Philip realizes with a shock that Margaret had not really been the obedient and submissive wife he had always thought she was; rather he had been the head of the family only because she had permitted it. “He was first angered, and then frightened, by the growing perception that he had ruled because it had been her will that he should rule, and that against her final decision he must dash himself in vain” (22).

Margaret’s strength of character, grounded in a deep morality, is recognized by everyone—of every class and every race. In one of the most dramatic scenes in the novel, a drunken mob of black laborers led by a white man with a grudge against the Lawtons approached Margaret’s house while the men of the family were away. Hoping to terrify the Lawton women to bring them down a notch by their vulnerability, the white ringleader instead found a calm, self-assured Margaret standing in the doorway of her house, armed with a cocked pistol. She dispersed the crowd without a word, as they responded to her “fearlessness, the sense of dominance, of security of power, of a race long used to mastery.” Besides, “[t]here was scarcely one of them who had not heard some story of her kindness to members of their race, and several had had personal experience of it. All of them knew that she had been ‘read out’ in both the colored churches of the village as a friend of the negroes. They stared in admiration at her beauty, and took a genuine pleasure in her pride; she was real ‘quality, fo’ sho”“(248).

Most importantly, Hammond’s model for social gospel womanhood sees all people through a lens of love. Where most other southern white women of her generation would have shunned the mixed-race child, Margaret instead sees the girl as a victim to be helped. She hopes to right the great wrong done to Viry by providing her with the education that would help lift her above what might otherwise be a grim future. Although Margaret cannot make other whites accept Viry and she never considers publicly acknowledging Viry as Philip’s child, Margaret can offer her a good home and a surrogate loving family. Viry’s attempted suicide finally makes it clear to Margaret that the refuge she has offered Viry is insufficient. The young woman cannot escape the larger world; instead she must be properly armed to handle it. Margaret has to tell her the truth about her parentage and about the efforts Margaret has made on her behalf, and hopes that this truth will instill in the troubled young woman a sense of the possibilities of self-sacrifice. Viry comes to understand that this kind of love is The Master-Word. Hammond’s message could not be clearer: southern whites must look past their racial prejudice to see what those around them truly need from them. By helping Viry to find her own life of service to others, Margaret has accomplished much to improve her larger society.

This was a quietly subversive message in 1905, when segregation was hardening from custom into law and racial violence had reached horrific new levels. Hammond was using her novel to push the social gospel into the fray of race relations. Where most progressive reformers attempted to ignore racial problems altogether, Hammond gently but firmly insisted that racial hostilities were not immutable, as most southern whites contended. Neither here nor in her future writings did Lily ever go so far as to declare that whites and blacks should one day reach such a level of equality that intermarriage would be natural and acceptable. The Master-Word does not imply an endorsement of interracial sex, but it does demand sympathy and acceptance for the innocent offspring of such unions. To accept the mulatta and make her existence cease to be tragic would require some blurring of the rigid line that supposedly separated the races.

Hammond’s social gospel message was subtle, although her contemporaries probably picked up on the language cues more readily than would many readers today. “Love is the Law above the law, The Master-Word of all,” she wrote (31). This was an important social gospel theme—the law of love—and readers in 1905 were more likely to intuit that cue than would readers in the twenty-first century. Washington Gladden, one of the important early theologians of the social gospel, began using the phrase “the law of love” in the 1880s.60 A contemporary journal called Social Gospel described the movement as “the application of Christ’s Golden Rule and Law of Love to all the business and affairs of life.”61 The advocates of the social gospel had no monopoly on the use of the phrase, but Hammond’s contemporaries would have understood the two to be linked.

Along with other recently rediscovered or republished works by southern women writers, The Master-Word is part of a neglected literary history that is only beginning to work its way into the canon. This essay argues that the book should now take its place as a southern social gospel novel. And for southern religious history, The Master-Word adds new evidence for reconsidering the presence of the social gospel movement on the region. I am not claiming that the recovery of this one out-of-print book proves that the South was a bastion of the social gospel. Instead it is my hope that it may encourage scholars to seek out other overlooked literature from the era, to see where it all might lead us in understanding the place of the social gospel in southern religious history. We have not looked systematically for this generation of “lost” fiction, but The Master-Word suggests that analysis of additional works may help us uncover a richer history of literary activism than we have known to date, peopled by men and women currently absent from our vision.

  1. Display ad, The New York Times, February 18, 1905, BR16. All citations to the New York Times are to the online edition. Publication information on the novel: L.H. Hammond, The Master-Word, A Story of the South Today (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1905). Throughout this essay, direct quotes from the novel are cited parenthetically in text.

  2. Display ad, The New York Times, March 4, 1905, BR134.

  3. Some reviewers clearly knew who “L.H. Hammond” was, identifying her with information not included in the novel or the advertisements. The reviewer in the South Atlantic Quarterly knew she was married to the Secretary of the Board of Education of the Southern Methodist Church. “Book Reviews and Notes,” South Atlantic Quarterly 4 (July 1905), 298. The reviewer in the Montgomery Advertiser identified her as “Mrs. John D. Hammond,” even though that was not how she was identified by the publisher of the novel (February 19, 1905), 21. Others had no knowledge of her, and assumed that “L.H.” Hammond was a man. See, for example, “Novels of the South,” The American Monthly Review of Reviews 31 (June 1905), 760. Such a reader must have missed the fact that Hammond dedicated the book to her husband.

  4. “Literature,” Independent 58 (April 20, 1905), 902.

  5. “Recent Fiction,” Christian Advocate 80 (April 20, 1905), 628.

  6. Her prior published fiction included “A Successful Marriage,” Harper’s 105 (October 1902): 747–52; and “Footstep of Fear,” Independent 55 (August 27, 1903): 2031–34. Her published poetry included “Knights Errant,” Century 56 (August 1898): 583; “A November Evening,” Outlook 75 (November 14, 1903): 655; and for children a poem entitled “Typewriter Family,” St. Nicholas 32 (March 1905): 417. After publication of The Master-Word, Hammond focused almost exclusively on non-fiction the rest of her career. The main exception was a novel entitled In the Garden of Delight (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1916).

  7. “A Story of the South,” The New York Times (March 4, 1905), BR130.

  8. Some recent work on the history of progressivisms includes: Charles R. McCann, Jr., Order and Control in American Socio-economic Thought: Social Scientists and Progressive-Era Reform (New York: Routledge, 2012); Lisa Szefel, The Gospel of Beauty in the Progressive Era: Reforming American Verse and Values (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); and Jeanne D. Petit, The Men and Women We Want: Gender, Race, and the Progressive Era Literacy Test Debate (Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2010).

  9. The social gospel movement has experienced a recent scholarly “revival.” See especially Michael Bourgeois, All Things Human: Henry Codman Potter and the Social Gospel in the Episcopal Church (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Susan Curtis, A Consuming Faith: The Social Gospel and Modern American Culture (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001); Gary Scott Smith, The Search for Social Salvation: Social Christianity and America, 1880–1925 (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2000); Christopher H. Evans, “Ties That Bind: Walter Rauschenbusch, Reinhold Niebuhr, and the Quest for Economic Justice,” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 95:4 (2012): 351–369; Bill Pitts, “Popular Reception of Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis, 1907–1909,” American Baptist Quarterly 28.2 (2009): 162–179; Janet R. Nelson, “Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel: A Hopeful Theology for the Twenty-First Century Economy,” Cross Currents 59.4 (2009): 442–456; and Matthew Bowman, “Sin, Spirituality, and Primitivism: The Theologies of the American Social Gospel, 1885–1917,” Religion & American Culture 17.1 (2007): 95–126.

  10. This localism is also reflected in a recent trend in the scholarship, which focuses on local and regional examples of the social gospel. See for example Jeremy Bonner, “The Limits of Acceptable Behavior: The ‘Arundel Affair’ and the Social Gospel in Progressive Pittsburgh,” Western Pennsylvania History 92.2 (2009): 50–61; Paul Boyer, “An Ohio Leader of the Social Gospel Movement,” Ohio History 116.1 (2009): 88–100; John Storey, “A Better World Through Practical Christianity: The Career of D. R. Pevoto,” Texas Gulf Historical & Biographical Record 45.1 (2009): 15–30; and Alan F. Bearman and Jennifer L. Mills, “Charles M. Sheldon and Charles F. Parham,” Kansas History 32.2 (2009):106–123.

  11. A “network of movements” comes from Ronald C. White, Jr. and C. Howard Hopkins, The Social Gospel: Religion and Reform in Changing America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976). For an emphasis on radicalism and socialism, see Dan McKanan, “The Implicit Religion of Radicalism: Socialist Party Theology, 1900–1934,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 78.3 (2010): 750-789; and Doug Rossinow, “The Radicalization of the Social Gospel: Harry F. Ward and the Search for a New Social Order,” Religion & American Culture 15.1 (2005): 63–106 . On the connections to academic sociology, see Joyce E. Williams and Vicky M. Maclean, “In Search of the Kingdom: The Social Gospel, Settlement Sociology, and the Science of Reform in America’s Progressive Era,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 48.4 (2012): 339–362.

  12. John Lee Eighmy, “Religious Liberalism in the South during the Progressive Era,” Church History 38.3 (1969): 367, 370. On the social gospel in the South, see especially Wayne Flynt, “Not An Island Unto Itself: Southern Baptists and the New Theological Trends (Liberalism, Ecumenism, and the Social Gospel), 1890-1940,” American Baptist Quarterly 22.2 (2003): 158–179; Betsy Flowers, “Southern Baptist Evangelicals or Social Gospel Liberals? The Woman’s Missionary Union and Social Reform, 1888 to 1928,” American Baptist Quarterly 19.2 (2000): 106–128; Carol Crawford Holcomb, “The Kingdom at Hand: The Social Gospel and the Personal Service Department of Woman’s Missionary Union, Auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention,” Baptist History & Heritage 35.2 (2000): 49–66; Paul Harvey, “Southern Baptists and the Social Gospel: White Religious Progressivism in the South, 1900–1925,” Fides et Historia 27.2 (1995): 59–77; and Ellen Jeffery Blue, “The Gospel According to St. Mark’s: Methodist Women Embodying a Liberating Theology from the Social Gospel to the Civil Rights Era at a Deaconess-run Settlement House in the French Quarter of New Orleans” (PhD diss., Tulane University, 2002).

  13. Wendy J. Deichman Edwards and Carolyn De Swarte Gifford, eds. Gender and the Social Gospel (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 4–5; and Mary Agnes Dougherty, “The Social Gospel According to Phoebe,” in Women in New Worlds, eds. Hilah F. Thomas and Rosemary Skinner Keller (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1981), 200–201.

  14. This growing literature includes: Patricia J. Sehulster, “Frances Harper’s Religion of Responsibility in Sowing and Reaping,” Journal of Black Studies 40.6 (2010): 1136–1152; Cornelius L. Bynum, “‘An Equal Chance in the Race for Life’: Reverdy C. Ransom, Socialism, and the Social Gospel Movement, 1890–1920,” Journal of African American History 93.1 (2008): 1–20; Terell Dale Goddard, “The Black Social Gospel in Chicago, 1896–1906: The Ministries of Reverdy C. Ranson and Richard R. Wright, Jr.,” Journal of Negro History 84.3 (1999): 227–246; Ingrid Overacker, “True to Our God: African American Women as Christian Activists in Rochester, New York,” Gender and the Social Gospel, eds. Edwards and Gifford, 202–216; and Clayborne Carson, “Martin Luther King, Jr., and the African-American Social Gospel,” in African-American Christianity: Essays in History, ed. Paul E. Johnson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

  15. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880–1920 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 174-75; Paul Harvey, Freedom’s Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), 72; Gary Scott Smith, The Search for Social Salvation: Social Christianity and America, 1880–1925 (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2000), 41, 224-27; and Jacquelyn Rouse, Lugenia Burns Hope: Black Southern Reformer (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985).

  16. Benjamin J. Wetzel, “Onward Christian Soldiers: Lyman Abbott’s Justification of the Spanish-American War,” Journal of Church and State 54:3 (2011): 406–425.

  17. Cecil E. Greek, The Religious Roots of American Sociology (New York: Garland, 1992), 47–50. Greek calls Strong’s Our Country “one of the most nativistic tracts ever written” (90).

  18. Stephen W. Angell and Anthony B. Pinn, eds., Social Protest Thought in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1862-1939 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000), 310.

  19. Harvey, Freedom’s Coming, 65–66. Paul Boyer noted that Washington Gladden’s early support for anti-lynching legislation did not lead to a larger anti-racist agenda for the social gospel theologian. After 1895, Gladden largely ignored racial violence and segregation as subjects, even when writing on “The Negro Problem.” Boyer, “An Ohio Leader of the Social Gospel Movement,” 97–98.

  20. Peter H. Hobbie, “Walter L. Lingle, Presbyterians, and the Enigma of the Social Gospel in the South,” American Presbyterians 69.3 (1991):198.

  21. A substantial literature on Southern progressivism can be represented here by two foundational and synthetic works: Dewey W. Grantham, Southern Progressivism: The Reconciliation of Progress and Tradition (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1983); and William A. Link, The Paradox of Southern Progressivism, 1880–1930 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992).

  22. A sample of representative works: Lee L. Willis, Southern Prohibition: Race, Reform, and Public Life in Middle Florida, 1821–1920 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011); Shelley Sallee, The Whiteness of Child Labor Reform in the New South (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004); and Georgina Hickey, Hope and Danger in the New South City: Working-Class Women and Urban Development in Atlanta, 1890–1940 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2003).

  23. In addition to literature cited elsewhere herein, see also Raymond R. Sommerville, An Ex-Colored Church: Social Activism in the CME Church, 1870–1970 (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2004); Andrew Billingsley, Mighty Like a River: The Black Church and Social Reform (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); and Peter J. Parish, The Social Teaching of the Black Churches (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985).

  24. Henry Warner Bowden, ed. Dictionary of American Religious Biography, 2nd edition (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993), 223–24. This brief sketch is one of the few published sources of biographical information available for Lily Hammond. The description of Packer Institute comes from its current website, The Packer Collegiate Institute, accessed November 27, 2012, .

  25. Lily Hardy Hammond, In Black and White: An Interpretation of the South, ed. Elna C. Green (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008), x.

  26. Drew prided itself on its record of social Christianity, claiming to be the first theological seminary in the country to establish a Chair of Christian Sociology. Ezra Squire Tipple, ed., Drew Theological Seminary, 1867–1917 (New York: Methodist Book Concern, 1917), 168.

  27. John Hammond has received little scholarly attention. Information on his education and career comes from the Year Book and Minutes of the Fifty-Eighth Session of the North Georgia Conference, M.E. Church, South, Wesley Memorial Church, November 19–24, 1924, ed. H.C. Emory, 87–88; Harold Lawrence, ed., Methodist Preachers in Georgia, 1783–1900 (Tignall, Ga.: Boyd Publishing, 1984), 224; and his obituary in the New York Times (December 12, 1923).

  28. “The Parsonage and Home Mission Reading Course,” Our Homes 3 (September 1894): 1–2.

  29. John Hammond’s job required him to attend annual meetings of all the different Southern Methodist conferences. In 1901, for example, he reported attending nineteen of the annual conferences. Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Education of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Nashville: MECS, 1901), 10. Lily travelled nearly as much. Between the two of them, they had contact with an extensive network of social reformers across the region.

  30. Mary E. Frederickson, “Shaping a New Society: Methodist Women and Industrial Reform in the South, 1880–1940,” in Women in New Worlds: Historical Perspectives on the Wesleyan Tradition, eds. Hilah E. Thomas and Rosemary Skinner Keller (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1981), Vol. 1, 353.

  31. Mrs. R.W. MacDonell, Belle Harris Bennett: Her Life Work (New York: Garland Publishing, 1928, reprint, 1987), 85; Sara Estelle Haskin, Women and Missions in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Nashville: M.E.C.,S, 1920), 32; Anne Firor Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830–1930 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995, 1970), 195.

  32. Carole Stanford Bucy, Women Helping Women: The YWCA of Nashville, 1898-1998 (Nashville: The YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, 1998), 42–43.

  33. Ibid., 44.

  34. John C. Waldmeir, Poetry, Prose and Art in the American Social Gospel Movement, 1880–1910 (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2002), 23. An extensive listing of social gospel novels can be found in the appendix in Robert Glenn Wright, The Social Christian Novel (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989).

  35. “New Book News,” Montgomery Advertiser (February 19, 1905), 21. This review seems to have been cribbed a month later in the Washington Morning Olympian (March 19, 1905). “The author is a Southern woman, keenly in sympathy with the whites of her section” (3).

  36. “Book Reviews and Notes,” South Atlantic Quarterly 4 (July 1905), 300.

  37. “New Book News,” Montgomery Advertiser (March 5, 1905), 21.

  38. “With Writers and Books,” (Columbia, S.C.) The State (April 9, 1905), 15.

  39. “Literature,” Massachusetts Ploughman and New England Journal of Agriculture 64 (September 23, 1905), 2

  40. “Literature,” Independent 58 (April 20, 1905), 903.

  41. The exact nature of Hammond’s condition was never disclosed publicly, but since she spent considerable time in New York’s Steuben Sanatorium it is possible that she was suffering from tuberculosis. (Her letter in the Twentieth Annual Report of the Woman’s Home Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church South [Nashville: MECS, 1906] was posted from Steuben Sanitarium.)

  42. Elizabeth Moss, Domestic Novelists in the Old South: Defenders of Southern Culture (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992), 2–3, 20.

  43. Amy Thompson McCandless, “The Postbellum Novel,” in The History of Southern Women’s Literature, eds. Carolyn Perry and Mary Louise Weaks, eds (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002), 142–43; and Gavin Jones, Strange Talk: The Politics of Dialect Literature in Gilded Age America (Berkeley: University of California, 1999), 7.

  44. Ann Douglas Wood, “The Literature of Impoverishment: The Women Local Colorists in America, 1865–1914,” Women’s Studies 1.1 (1972): 12.

  45. Sylvia Wallace Holton, Down Home and Uptown: The Representation of Black Speech in American Fiction (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1984), 74. At least one book has suggested that white women regionalists were “significantly less nostalgic” than were male writers. Although they might look back wistfully at antebellum race or class relations, it was harder for them to ignore the “conflict between marriage and self-realization.” See Elizabeth Ammons and Valerie Rohy, American Local Color Writing, 1880–1920 (New York: Penguin Books, 1998), xxii.

  46. Since no personal papers are extant, we cannot know whether the editors at Macmillan pushed Hammond to write local color. But certainly other authors of her generation were pressured to do so. Grace King’s editor at Macmillan, George P. Brett, encouraged her to use plantation settings and “Reconstruction romances” as themes. See Michael Kreyling, “After the War: Romance and the Reconstruction of Southern Literature,” in Southern Literature in Transition: Heritage and Promise, eds. Philip Castille and William Osborne (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1983), 117–1

  47. “Book Reviews and Notes,” The South Atlantic Quarterly 4 (July 1905): 299.

  48. Jones, Strange Talk, 1–7.

  49. Holton, Down Home and Uptown, 87. It is worth mentioning that the use of dialect continues to be seen as a means of depicting culture authentically. See Kathryn Stockett, The Help (New York: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2009). The late-nineteenth-century dialect movement in literature was accompanied by a newfound academic interest in folklore and dialect, symbolized by the formation of the American Folklore Society in 1888 and the American Dialect Society the following year. Jones, Strange Talk, 17. The 1890s saw a sudden surge of scholarly attention, both in established venues such as the North American Review and new outlets such as Dialect Notes. Just as examples: Armstrong Wauchope, “The Value of Dialect,” North American Review 158 (1894); “Use and Abuse of Dialect,” The Dial 18 (1895); and E.S. Sheldon, “What is a Dialect?,” Dialect Notes 1 (1896). In other words, Hammond’s use of dialect put her squarely in the mainstream of American literature at the turn-of-the-century. And, as Jane Turner Censer has observed, the use of dialect did not necessarily conform to social and political conservatism. Authors Amélie Rives and Sherwood Bonner both were practitioners of dialect, while holding socially “daring” views. By contrast, the more politically conservative Frances Fisher tended to avoid its use. Jane Turner Censer, The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 1865–1895 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003), 270.

  50. Nina Silber, The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865–1900 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993).

  51. Carol S. Manning, “The Real Beginning of the Southern Renaissance,” in Carol S. Manning, ed., The Female Tradition in Southern Literature (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 38.

  52. Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Hearts of Darkness: Wellsprings of a Southern Literary Tradition (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003), 184, 181.

  53. Thomas L. McHaney, “Literary Modernism: The South Goes Modern and Keeps on Going,” in Southern Literature in Transition: Heritage and Promise, eds. Philip Castille and William Osborne (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1983), 43.

  54. On social gospel novels more generally, see Elmer Suderman, “Utopia, the Kingdom of God and Heaven: Utopian, Social Gospel, and Gates Ajar Fiction,” American Studies 31.1 (1990): 91–101; Dana F. White, “A Summons for the Kingdom of God on Earth: The Early Social-Gospel Novel,” South Atlantic Quarterly 67.3 (1968): 469–485; and Elmer F. Suderman, “The Social-Gospel Novelists’ Criticism of American Society,” Midcontinent American Studies Journal 7 (1966): 45-60

  55. Janet C. Olson, ”In His Steps: A Social Gospel Novel,” in Religions of the United States in Practice, ed. Colleen McDannell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), Vol. 1, 256.

  56. Charles M. Sheldon, In His Steps:”What Would Jesus Do?” (Chicago: Advance Publishing, 1898).

  57. Susan H. Lindley, “Women and the Social Gospel Novel,” Church History 54.1 (1985), 57.

  58. Erin A. Smith, “‘What Would Jesus Do?’: The Social Gospel and the Literary Marketplace,” Book History 10 (2007), 194.

  59. Anne Firor Scott noted that, even in the antebellum period, “The skill with which many widows carried on plantations suggests that women knew a good deal more about the planting operation than has generally been supposed.” The Southern Lady, 34. Later in the century, novelist Molly Elliott Seawell observed that, amongst the Virginia gentry, “the only people in the county who paid their taxes promptly were the widows.” From Throckmorton (New York, 1890), quoted by Censer, Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 129.

  60. Jacob Dorn, Washington Gladden: Prophet of the Social Gospel (Columbus: Ohio State University Press 1967), 213.

  61. Quoted by Richard C. Goode, “The Godly Insurrection in Limestone County: Social Gospel, Populism, and Southern Culture in the Late Nineteenth Century,” Religion and American Culture 3.2 (1993), 156. See also White and Hopkins, The Social Gospel, 262.