CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (36): Effie Waller Smith, Bachelor Girl

She does not shirk, but does her work,
Amid the world’s fast hustling whirl,
And come what may, she’s here to stay,
The self-supporting “bachelor girl.”

– Effie Waller Smith in New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descen, Margaret Busby



Effie Waller Smith (1879 – 1960) was an African-American poet of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. She was smart, independent, and ahead of her time. Her collections are:  Songs of the Month (1904), Rhymes From the Cumberland (1904), and Rosemary and Pansies (1909). Her work was featured in local newspapers and in some of the major publications of the day.

Effie Waller was born to former slaves in the rural mountain community of Chloe Creek in Pike County, Kentucky, on a farm located a few miles from Pikeville.Her father, Frank Waller, migrated to the East Kentucky mountains sometime after the Civil War, having spent most of his early life as a laborer on a Virginia plantation. Her mother, Sibbie Ratliff, was born and raised in East Kentucky and met Frank Waller in the early 1870s. Effie was the third of four children.

Frank Waller was a blacksmith and a real estate speculator. Chloe Creek, the area in which the Wallers lived, was unusual for the time. It was racially integrated. The Wallers were responsible, hard-working, and clean-living.  Frank and Sibbie, realizing the limits of their own educations, were determined that their children would receive a quality education and Effie and her siblings were educated at Kentucky Normal School for Colored Persons in Frankfort, the capitol of Kentucky. Effie subsequently taught in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Effie Waller Smith’s work is worth reading. Unfortunately, the charges on Amazon and Alibris are outrageous and her work is not included in The Gutenberg Project, where you’d be able to download it for free. You might try connecting with Steve at Scholar and Poet Books, EB and Scholar and Poet Books, Abe Books  to see what he has at what price. You can find a few of her poems around on the Internet. Her poems The “Bachelor Girl and The Cuban Cause are included in New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent, Margaret Busby. The “Bachelor Girl” is also posted on Literary Ladies HERE. I clipped Apple Sauce and Chicken Fried (posted below the video) from Poem Hunter.

With a nod to Wikipedia; Illustration: Public Domain

It you are reading this post from an email subscription, it’s likely you’ll have to link through to the site to view this video of Effie’s life and work.

Apple Sauce and Chicken Fried

You may talk about the knowledge
Which our farmers’ girls have gained
From cooking-schools and cook-books,
(Where all modern cooks are trained):
But I would rather know just how,
(Though vainly I have tried)
To prepare, as mother used to,
Apple sauce and chicken fried.

Our modern cooks know how to fix
Their dainty dishes rare,
But, friend, just let me tell you what!-
None of them can compare
With what my mother used to fix,
And for which I’ve often cried,
When I was but a little tot,-
Apple sauce and chicken fried.

Chicken a la Française,
And also fricassee,
Served with some new fangled sauce
Is plenty good for me,
Till I get to thinking of the home
Where once I used to ‘bide,
And where I used to eat,- um, my!
Apple sauce and chicken fried.

We always had it once a week,
Sometimes we had it twice;
And I have even known the time
When we have had it thrice.
Our good, yet jolly pastor,
During his circuit’s ride
With us once each week gave grateful thanks
For apple sauce and chicken fried.

Why, it seems like I can smell it,
And even taste it, too,
And see it with my natural eyes,
Though of course it can’t be true;
And it seems like I’m a child again,
Standing by mother’s side,
Pulling at her dress and asking
For apple sauce and chicken fried.

– Effie Waller Smith



ABOUT

2 thoughts on “CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (36): Effie Waller Smith, Bachelor Girl

Thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s