Corra Harris (1869-1935)
Novelist Corra White Harris literary critiques.
Harris established a reputation as a humorist, southern apologist, polemicist, and upholder of premodern agrarian values. At the same time she criticized southern writers who sentimentalized a past that never existed. Most of Harris's nineteen books were novels, though she also published two autobiographies, a travel journal, and a coauthored book of fictional letters. Two of her works became feature-length movies. Of these, the best known is I'd Climb the Highest Mountain (1951), inspired by A Circuit Rider's Wife. The film was written and produced by Georgia native Lamar Trotti and starred Susan Hayward and William Lundigan. She was the first female war correspondent to go abroad in World War I (1917-18).
Born Corra Mae White on March 17, 1869, on Farmhill Plantation in the foothills of Elbert County, she was the daughter of Tinsley Rucker White and Mary Elizabeth Mathews White. Like many southern women of her day, she did not have an extensive education. She attended Elberton Female Academy but never graduated and, as a writer, was largely self-taught. In 1887 she married Methodist minister and educator Lundy Howard Harris. They had three children, only one of whom—a daughter named Faith—lived beyond infancy.
Harris's Cartersville in Bartow County. There she died in 1935, having outlived her daughter by sixteen years.
Harris's prolific writing career began in 1899 with an impassioned letter to the editor of the Independent. William Hayes Ward wrote a searing editorial about the lynching in Georgia on April 23, 1899, of Sam Hose, a black man accused of killing a white farmer and raping his wife. Harris replied with a conventional defense of lynching, yet she so impressed the editors with her disarming expression of homespun politics that the Independent encouraged further submissions.
OfUniversity of Georgia Press.
Less well known, though not less relevant for its social critique, is The Recording Angel (1912). This novel, set in a little town called Ruckersville in the hills of north Georgia, depicts a place where residents are so devoted to the legacy of their Confederate heroes that they have isolated themselves and become culturally barren. Harris mocks the Lost Cause mythology, and again she reveals the excesses and limitations of evangelical religion. This book, along with Harris's first novel, reflects her efforts to come to terms with modernity.
One of her works, The Co-Citizens (1915), illustrates especially well the paradoxical nature of Harris's personality and politics. The protagonist is loosely based on Rebecca Latimer Felton, a fellow Georgian, and Harris purportedly wrote the novel to illustrate support for the woman suffrage movement, though she was actually more ambivalent about than supportive of the movement. Although many (including Felton) accepted The Co-Citizens as a pro-suffrage statement, others read it as a barely veiled attack on feminism, a way of life Harris lived in practice yet rejected in theory.
Harris's two autobiographies were quite acclaimed in their day. My Book and Heart (1924) was more popular with the public, though Harris felt that As a Woman Thinks (1925) was her best and most satisfying work. During the 1930s her publishing career was largely limited to the locally popular "Candlelit Column," a tri-weekly article in the Atlanta Journal. Harris died of heart-related illness on February 7, 1935.
In 1996 Harris was inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement.