Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice

Document Type



This study asks (1) how did the Natchez Garden Club conceptualize and promote literacy in their club and in the community?, (2) how might educational practices of select Southern, White, elite women be theorized in the lives of the Natchez Garden Club and its members during the 1930s, 40s and 50s?, and (3) how does an examination of the Natchez Garden Club illuminate understandings of select Southern, White, privileged women and the ways they took on roles as informal educators? To answer these questions, the study examined The Natchez Garden Club, an elite White women’s club in the South and their literacy practices. The case study used document analysis, interviews and observations to gain understanding of how the club worked. The findings suggest that the club contributed to the Lost Cause mentality in the town by promoting patriarchy, paternalism and privilege. At the same time, the club carved a path for club members in the town to reconceive the how the club worked as informal educators that promoted literacy practices within the town. Even though gender norms would have them take subservient roles, they found ways to circumvent those difficulties. The club engaged in literacy activities that promoted a version of history that romanticized the South and promoted the ideals of the Lost Cause movement that believed in a social hierarchy that held White men at its head. The irony of this is that the women inverted patriarchy by establishing their place as benevolent leaders in Natchez despite expectations that they would remain in the private realm. The study compels researchers to think about the ways privilege influences social action and the ways informal institutions can become literacy sponsors for young people and community members.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Hendry, Petra Munro



Included in

Education Commons