Emma Bell Miles was a child of the mountains who lived in two worlds. . She went to art school in St. Louis and returned to Walden Ridge to marry and raise a family. She was at home with Walden Ridge mountaineers and Chattanooga socialites, many of whom were patrons who purchased her art.
Miles suffered ill health throughout her life and died at age thirty-nine of tuberculosis. At the time, tuberculosis sufferers were lodged in unheated tents year-round to keep them in the fresh air. This treatment may have contributed to her demise.
Her news reporting for the Chattanooga Times, selling her artwork to local patrons, and publishing poems and short stories in Harpers and other magazines largely supported her husband and children. Her husband also suffered ill health. His work was irregular, and often the children were left in his care while she worked at the newspaper and lived in town.
Dr. Peggy Douglas, Chattanooga musician, playwright, and poet, wrote and produced the musical, Twisted Roots after extensive research on Miles in the special collections of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga library.
There is a substantial article about her in the online version of the Tennessee Encyclopedia.
Our Southern Birds
This book includes descriptions of birds and the author's drawings of each species. Several entries include descriptions of her encounters with the species. A scanned version is available as a free download from Google Books. A recent reprint is available for purchase from various sources.
The Spirit of the Mountains
In this book, Emma Bell Miles addressed the joy and despair of mountain life. She quoted one mountaineer saying, "My land is so poor it couldn't raise a fight." Land and nature are central themes in her writing and artwork.
She also chronicled music and verse of the mountain people, with disparaging comments about the "summer people," who had second homes on the ridge. These people may have thought of the camp meetings and baptisms with their emotional and vocal responses as "entertainment."
Miles also spoke out on the treatment of Appalachian women with a proto-feminist voice. Her anger at a young husband who provided his pregnant wife with neither shoes nor a comb for her hair blazed hot when the man said he would ride to town and buy a suit of clothes for the new baby. Her words beamed with admiration for the wife who provided a long list of things when he asked if she wanted anything while he was in town.
She ended her book with a hope for mountain culture, and a lament for the people as Appalachia succumbed to progress that impoverished rather than enriched. This book has achieved respect from American folklorists.
The Common Lot and Other Stories: The Published Short Fiction 1908 - 1921
This is a recent publication by the Ohio University Press (Athens, Ohio). The stories are about Appalachian life, particularly women's lives in Appalachia. Many of the stories were first published in Harpers'. Grace Toney Edwards edited this book and wrote the introduction. She spent hours at the Library of Congress tracking down the original copies published in magazines such as Harpers. https://www.ohioswallow.com/book/The+Common+Lot+and+Other+Stories
Strains from a Dulcimore (sic)
This is a collection of Miles' poems edited by Abby Crawford Milton and published in 1930. She lovingly spoke of birds, wildflowers, and the dulcimer in these stanzas. Some of the works may have appeared in a chapbook that miles self-published and sold during her lifetime, as discussed in her journals, published by Ohio University Press.
Once I too Had Wings: The Journals of Emma Bell Miles 1908-1918
Stephen Cox, the special collections librarian at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library, edited this volume. He transformed handwritten diaries into published text. The available material was substantially more than that included in the final book. He provides an excellent description of the editing process in the introduction. The forward by Elizabeth S.G. Englehardt offers tremendous insight into the life of Miles, as does the book's text. https://www.ohioswallow.com/book/Once+I+Too+Had+Wings
Diary: May 25, 1914, to June 10, 1915
This volume is a hand-bound, typewritten manuscript deposited with the Chattanooga Public Library. The librarian informed me that the other diaries are at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga special collections.
Emma Bell Miles by Kay Baker Gaston
This volume is an out-of-print biography, available in some libraries and from used book dealers. It was published in 1985 by the Walden Ridge Historical Association. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34608044-emma-bell-miles
Stephen Cox, the editor of Once I Too Had Wings, examined Miles' collected papers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and described several works mentioned in the journals and correspondence. Miles was a much more prolific writer than indicated by her known works. There are references to a trunk of papers someone took from her residence just after her death.