Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)


Appalachian Studies

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Lee Bidgood

Committee Members

Rebecca Adkins Fletcher, Katie Hoffman, Marie Tedesco


This thesis explores how contemporary Appalachian women’s gendered experiences influence their choices of ballad repertoire. This inquiry is pursued through a feminist analysis of interviews with six women ballad singers from Madison County, North Carolina. In evaluating the women’s choices of ballads and their commentary on the songs, this thesis draws upon narratological theories as well as concepts from Appalachian traditional music studies.

This study finds that women’s repertoire preferences reveal contemporary female concerns for physical safety and political agency. The singers also extract hidden transcripts from ballad texts and use ballads to educate audiences about women’s historic oppression. However, some singers find other factors, such as a song’s tune, or its significance as a part of regional heritage, to be more significant than the narrative content of the songs. This work affirms the contemporary influences of gendered concerns in ballad singing communities.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.