By Stephen D. Bowling
Jackson has always been known as a rough place. Shootings, murders, vicious politics, unneeded strife, and the very difficulties of daily life made (and still make) living here hard. Society and life in our little mountain town were always run by the rich and powerful men who controlled every facet of our world- or at least they wanted people to think that. The truth is that Jackson and Breathitt County has always relied on the strength of women.
Often forgotten among the newspaper accounts of the violent deeds of “Bloody Breathitt” is the civilizing and calming influence of women. Women were the very fabric that held our society together and upon which our history has been written. In the end, the world they created eventually overcame the world of violence seen by the outside world. From the earliest families who found their way over the mountains and down into our valleys, women sustained and supported the family. They helped establish schools, churches, community organizations, and banks.
One of those women who saw a better Breathitt and worked to build it became known as the “Mother of Jackson.” Ann Eliza (Cardwell) Short grew up in Jackson in one of the county’s wealthiest and most prominent families. She married an industrious man who provided for the eight of their 12 children who grew to adulthood.
Ann Eliza Short dominated the social world of Jackson from sewing circles to the local temperance movement. She was a fixture in the Christian Church and was active in nearly every charitable movement in our town. She died in February 1938 and was lauded in an article on the front page of The Jackson Times on March 3, 1938.
Mrs. Short Passes After Long Illness Mrs. Ann Eliza Short, widow of the late A. H. Short, died at her home in South Jackson, Monday February 28, following a prolonged illness. A native of Breathitt County and the daughter of the late Thomas P. and Ellen Cardwell, Mrs. Short was a member of some of the pioneer families of this county. She was born March 29, 1857, being near 81 years of age at her death. A number of years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Short moved to Berea where they resided for several years returning here about twenty years ago. Mr. Short died two years ago. Since the death of her husband, Mrs. Short had lived with her son, Brack Short, where she died. Mrs. Short was a member of the Christian Church and until her ill health prevented, she was active in church work. She was deeply interested in all community work and was always ready to aid in every worthy cause. She was a faithful wife and a kind and generous mother, charitable in disposition and loyal to her friends. Surviving are three daughter: Mrs. Roy Fugate, West Liberty; Mrs. Al Williams and Mrs. Gerrin Barnes, Berea; two sons, Dan Short, Berea, and Brack Short of this city and a number of grandchildren. Also one sister, Mrs. Sam Cole and a brother, T. P. Cardwell of this city. Funeral services were conducted at the family residence, Tuesday afternoon at 2 o’clock, Brother Albert Hales, pastor of the Christian Church officiating. The body was taken to Berea Tuesday night and interment was made in the family lot in the Berea Cemetery, Wednesday morning. Ray and Blake, local funeral directors, had charge of arrangements. Pallbearers were Kerney Bays, Arch Stacy, R. A. Collier, O. G. Gillum, Cortney Hays, R. L. Hadden, R. M. Bottoms, A. H. Patton, S. J. Cockrell, and Herbert Allen. Members of the Ladies Aid of the Christian Church were honorary pallbearers.
In so many ways, not much has changed. Today, most men continue to think they control and run things around Jackson, but the truth is actually something different. There is an old mountain expression that rings so true: Men may be the head of the house and society in many ways, but women are the neck. It is the neck that turns the head and helps point it in the right way to go.
© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling
Thanks for everything you share, Stephen. Every time I read one of your excellent essays, I learn…and learn! You are a treasure in Jackson and Breathitt County, and in all of Kentucky, and for Kentuckians and historians everywhere.
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