Introducing Southern Appalachian Women (SAW)

Introducing Southern Appalachian Women (SAW): Researching, preserving, and sharing women's stories in Southern Appalachia through creativity. Join our captivating newsletter community!
The Common Lot Easter standing in her new cabin
Easter from "The Common Lot" by Emma Bell Miles

Dress Design-Sybil Todd of White Knight Cosplay

Model: Aiden Dubay

The music beckoned me to a halt. Exiting my first-year orientation session at Mars Hill University, the melodic strains floated through the air, evoking memories of lazy afternoons on my grandmother’s porch in Fines Creek, North Carolina. As the bustling crowd of fellow students continued their hurried pace, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the enchanting sounds. As a shy 17-year-old fresh out of high school, I hesitated momentarily, gathering the courage to approach the source of the captivating melody. In that serendipitous moment, I first focused on Cassie, the vibrant soul behind the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies. I shared my deep-rooted love for the fiddle with a sheepish smile, reminiscing about the joyous sing-alongs on my grandfather’s porch. Cassie’s eyes lit up with understanding, and in that instant, I knew our encounter was no mere coincidence. “We must talk,” she said, her voice filled with excitement. Unbeknownst to me, that simple conversation would spark a profound transformation within me. With unwavering enthusiasm, I eagerly agreed to join her in the center through the work-study program, thus embarking on a journey of exploration and uncovering the boundless wonders of regional studies.

The Premonition of Roan Mountain North Carolina
"The Premonition of Roan Mountain"

Dress Design-Sybil Todd of White Knight Cosplay

Models: Aiden Dubay and Dakota Todd

In the course of time, MHU underwent a significant transformation, renaming the minor from regional studies to Appalachian Studies. From the very first day on campus, this program enveloped me in its captivating universe. I can still vividly recall the surge of excitement that coursed through me upon discovering the existence of renowned local authors who were writing about my beloved home and capturing the essence of my own experiences. Realizing that my own stories and heritage were valued and celebrated filled me with an indescribable sense of pride and belonging.

Meeting Author Sharyn McCrumb

Fast forward to my second semester in early 2004, a serendipitous encounter orchestrated by Cassie once again left an indelible mark on me. Sharyn McCrumb, the esteemed author of the Ballad Novels, graced our college with her presence to share insights into her literary inspiration. Overjoyed at the opportunity to meet a local author and hear firsthand about her creative process, I could barely contain my excitement. Already a proud owner of 6-9 of her books, I eagerly sought her autograph. Amidst my deeply rooted introversion and the overwhelming sense of awe, I struggled to engage her in conversation. However, as Sharyn captivated the room with her words, a thought unexpectedly sprouted within me, taking me by surprise.



“What if I, too, could be inspired by the ancient ballads of the Appalachian Mountains and translate their essence into captivating photoshoots?”

The notion stirred a profound sense of excitement within me, even though I was merely embarking on my initial photography course at the time. Uncertain of how to bring this vision to life, I allowed the idea to burrow deep within my soul, relentlessly gnawing at me for two decades. Now, after twenty years of longing, I stand on the precipice of that whispered journey, ready to embrace the creative path that beckoned me all those years ago.

Introducing Southern Appalachian Women (SAW)

Southern Appalachian Women Logo

Introducing Southern Appalachian Women (SAW), a new nonprofit organization dedicated to researching, preserving, and sharing the rich histories and stories of women throughout the region. Our mission is driven by the belief that creativity holds a unique power to illuminate and educate.


Through various disciplines, including visual and textile arts, literature, folklore, music, culture, oral histories, and regional studies, we aim to illustrate and educate. By exploring the lives and contributions of Southern Appalachian women, we seek to shed light on their experiences, challenges, triumphs, and legacies.

Mushrooms of the Southern Appalachians
Gown Inspired by the Mushrooms of Southern Appalachia

Dress Design-Amanda Tweed of Mountain Flower Fantasies

Model: Bethanie Haney

Hair and Makeup: Fab Flawless Hair and Makeup Artistry

At SAW, we are passionate about delving into the untold narratives, bringing them to the forefront, and fostering a deeper understanding of the diverse roles women have played in shaping the region’s heritage. Our innovative approach allows us to uncover hidden stories, uncovering connections between past and present, and inspire a greater appreciation for the women who have contributed to the fabric of Southern Appalachia.


Join us on this inspiring journey of discovery, empowerment, and celebration. Together, we will honor the remarkable women of the Southern Appalachian region and ensure their stories are cherished for generations to come.

Colonial Settler in the Southern Appalachian Mountains Mother watching her young daughter play in a creek
Colonial Mother Watching Out for Her Child in the Southern Appalachian Wilderness

Dress Design-Sybil Todd of White Knight Cosplay

Models: Morgan and Draya Ferguson

We draw inspiration from the rich diversity of flora and fauna, literature, folklore, music, and traditional research. Among them are two stunning gowns designed by Sybil Todd of White Knight Cosplay, and Amanda Tweed (we call her Mandy), of Mountain Flower Fantasies.

By the way all of our EXPERT hair and makeup services come from our other creative team members Sheri Gaffney of Fab Flawless Hair and Makeup Artistry and Morgan Ferguson of Redz Salon.

Examples of Our Work

Over the course of the past ten months, we have been diligently working on various projects that exemplify our mission. Below, you will find inspiring examples of our work:

Native Americans and Whitetail Deer

The first gown pays homage to the whitetail deer and its significance in Cherokee culture, both before and after colonization.

Native American wearing a dress inspired by whitetail deer
Whitetail Deer Dress at Sunset in the Mountains of Western North Carolina

Dress Design-Sybil Todd of White Knight Cosplay

Model: Ashton Wilson 

During my research, I discovered a fascinating fact about these deer—they were nearly hunted to extinction in the mountains due to excessive hunting. When settlers arrived in the blue hills and encountered the Native Americans, it had a devastating impact. The Cherokee became enthralled by rifles and their efficiency in hunting. However, in order to obtain a rifle from the settlers, they had to purchase it by providing 40 deer skins per rifle. It is no wonder that we lost a significant number of these magnificent creatures during that period. But this is only part of their story, as there is much more to come!

Mushrooms and Morels

Couture Gown inspired the mushrooms and morels of the southern appalachians
Gown Inspired by the Mushrooms and Morels of the Southern Appalachian Mountains

Dress Design-Amanda Tweed of Mountain Flower Fantasies

Model: Bethanie Haney

Hair and Makeup: Fab Flawless Hair and Makeup Artistry

The second gown showcased is inspired by morel mushrooms, representing not only these delicate fungi but also all mushrooms thriving in our lush forests. Even today, morel mushrooms are considered a culinary delicacy by chefs and foragers. They can only be found in the wild and are harvested and enjoyed in the spring, requiring specific weather and soil conditions for growth. Every year, my father embarks on a quest to find these delectable morsels, and we relish in indulging ourselves. Additionally, there are other edible varieties such as chicken of the woods, oyster mushrooms, and chanterelles! Perhaps I will discover some recipes to complement this dress?

"The Common Lot" Emma Bell Miles

Lastly, we present an example influenced by my passion for Appalachian Literature. If you have not yet encountered Emma Bell Miles, I urge you to explore her remarkable works. She was an American author, artist, and naturalist who centered her writings on the mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

The Common Lot by Emma Bell Miles
Cover of "The Common Lot and Other Stories" by Emma Bell Miles

Last year, I rediscovered her work, which resonated deeply within my soul, reflecting my own experiences and struggles as a woman and a mother. As a teenager, I found her writings relatable, but they struck an even stronger chord when I revisited them last year.


In particular, her short story, “The Common Lot,” reminded me of the challenges of coming of age and my own decision to marry at a young age. The story follows Easter, who finds herself caught between her mother’s home and her older sister. She is young and vibrant, yearning to spend time immersed in nature. However, she ends up assisting her sister with her children or helping her mother at home. Her life takes a turn when she encounters the love of her life, yet fear of losing her cherished freedom prevents her from embracing marriage. Throughout the piece, we witness her transformation from a girl to a young woman, a truly beautiful journey.

Mother in the Woods with Daughters in Southern Appalachians
Mother Sewing Rhododendron Leaves for Necklaces and Skirts for Good Luck

Dress Designs-Sybil Todd of White Knight Cosplay

Model: Sybil and Dakota Todd and Aiden Dubay

I apologize for the lingering suspense, but I can’t help but revel in keeping you on the edge of your seat. The unveiling of this entire shoot and story will be well worth the wait. So, brace yourself for an irresistible anticipation—I’m sorry, not sorry!

We Invite You to Be the First Subscribers

Get ready to stay in the loop and become the very first subscribers to our captivating newsletter! As our official launch date approaches, I’m working diligently on crafting our website and finalizing the necessary legal documents. In order to fund our research, materials, and expenses, we will be seeking donations and striving to secure the coveted 501(c)3 status. But here’s the best part—it’s all for your benefit!

Why, you may ask? Because we are committed to sharing every bit of knowledge we gain with you! Just envision a unique platform where we can explore and celebrate diverse information and stories about women from all races and backgrounds, with a special focus on the Southern Appalachians.

Southern Appalachian Woman
Easter from "The Common Lot" by Emma Bell Miles Working in Her New Cabin

Dress Design-Sybil Todd of White Knight Cosplay

Model: Aiden Dubay

Why, you may ask? Because we are committed to sharing every bit of knowledge we gain with you! Just envision a unique platform where we can explore and celebrate diverse information and stories about women from all races and backgrounds, with a special focus on the Southern Appalachians.


But hold on, there’s so much more we have in store! The website is just the beginning of our ambitious journey. We plan to bring our work to life through mesmerizing traveling art installations, curate an informative art book, impart knowledge and inspiration through education, and here’s the secret we can’t contain any longer—we are even planning a spectacular fashion show!


Doesn’t it pique your curiosity? Are you eager to join us? Don’t miss out on this incredible adventure—sign up below and be part of our captivating newsletter community!

Southern Appalachian Women Logo

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About Sabrina

Sabrina is a photographer located near Asheville, NC who loves to create stories through her lens. She is known for her conceptual photography inspired by literature and her love of books.

Sabrina is also a portrait, wedding, and small business photographer. Her artistic style bridges the line of cinema and paintings.

And when she’s not photographing people, you can find her indulging in journaling, reading traditional fairy and folktales, researching her beloved Southern Appalachia, daydreaming, or spending time with her family and her pampered dog, Pixel.

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