Leaving the Mountains: Intersections of Feminist and Marxist Ideologies in Fielding Burke’s Call Home the Heart

Working Title: Leaving the Mountains: Intersections of Feminist and Marxist Ideologies in Fielding Burke’s Call Home the Heart Olive Tilford Dargon, pen name Fielding Burke, was a Kentucky native who settled in Asheville, NC, in 1925. Her 1932 novel, Call Home the Heart, is a fictionalized account of the 1929 Gastonia textile mill strike. The novel tells the story of Ishma, a young woman born and raised in the Southern Appalachian Mountains who migrates to find work in the textile mills in the piedmont of North Carolina. While the novel definitely does have a public, political agenda sympathetic to the textile workers, its focus is Ishma and her struggle to live within the more restrictive confines of town life. The novel transcends the genre of “proletariat realism” – a term used by Sylvia Cook in her critical afterword to the 1983 Feminist Press edition of Dargon’s text; my intention is to use the lenses of both feminist and Marxist literary criticism to examine Dargon’s integration of the personal and the political in this account of Ishma’s struggle and her progress as a woman and a working-class laborer. Because women’s roles were limited both in the larger society, and within the leftist labor movement, I propose that this text offers a truly radical view of a working class woman as a fully realized and complex participant in the labor movement. At a time when the ideology of separate spheres for men and women remained the commonly received order of things, Dargon’s novel unapologetically presents the reader with a woman who struggles with limiting roles for women that emerge from both the political left and right. ANITA ROSE CONVERSE COLLEGE