Using the Tennessee antievolution 'Monkey Law,' authored by a local
legislator, as a measure of how conservatives successfully
resisted, co-opted, or ignored reform efforts, Jeanette Keith
explores conflicts over the meaning and cost of progress in
Tennessee's hill country from 1890 to 1925.
Until the 1890s, the Upper Cumberland was dominated by small
farmers who favored limited government and firm local control of
churches and schools. Farm men controlled their families' labor and
opposed economic risk taking; farm women married young, had large
families, and produced much of the family's sustenance. But the
arrival of the railroad in 1890 transformed the local economy.
Farmers battled town dwellers for control of community
institutions, while Progressives called for cultural, political,
and economic modernization. Keith demonstrates how these conflicts
affected the region's mobilization for World War I, and she argues
that by the 1920s shifting gender roles and employment patterns
threatened traditionalists' cultural hegemony. According to Keith,
religion played a major role in the adjustment to modernity, and
local people united to support the 'Monkey Law' as a way of
confirming their traditional religious values.