CAROLINE PAFFORD MILLER
Nurse. Volunteer. social activist.
2009 Inductee, Georgia Women of Achievement
City, Town, Region
In 1934 a south Georgia house wife and mother attracted the attention of the entire country. Caroline Miller’s novel, Lamb in His Bosom, won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, the highest literary award given in the United States. It was a time of The Great Depression and country was reeling with hard times. Caroline Miller, a young writer, chose as the theme of her novel, the perseverance, faith and courage of the South Georgia pioneer settlers. Readers were mesmerized by the struggle and brute faith that sustained these characters. Their own struggles began to pale in comparison.
The youngest of seven children, Caroline was born in 1903 in Waycross, Georgia to a school teacher/minister and his wife. At an early age, Caroline showed an affinity for the arts-- music, drama and poetry. Cast as the lead in a number of high school plays, she was recognized as an accomplished actress and hoped to major in drama at the University of Georgia. However, she was not able to attend college. It was ultimately her writing ability that became the outlet for her creative talents. After the death of her parents when she was still in high school, Caroline was taken care of by her two older sisters. Soon after graduating, Caroline married William D. Miller, her high school English teacher. Although her dream of attending college did not materialize, Caroline says that her husband introduced her to great literature and says “he was my college”.
In 1928 the couple moved to Baxley, Georgia where Caroline‘s husband became the Superintendent of Schools. It was in this swampy, rural setting that Caroline found the inspiration for her novel.
Caroline wrote her book in long hand, using a fountain pen. Most of her writing was done on her kitchen table after the dishes were cleared away, while the children took their naps or after they went to bed at night. The Pulitzer Awards were presented Columbia University on May 7, 1934. Caroline told the audience that she felt like Cinderella and that the success of her book seemed like a fairy tale. After a week filled with luncheons, dinners and interviews the newspaper reporters were calling her, “that charming young woman from South Georgia.”
Upon returning home the entire town of Baxley turned out to greet her with banners and posters. A band played and a parade of 2500 fans gathered to escort Caroline home from the train depot. The success her novel and the resulting celebrity made it difficult for her to resume her former life in the small South Georgia town of Baxley. She and her husband were involved in a painful and public divorce. Later she married, Clyde H. Ray and moved to Waynesville, North Carolina where she had two more children. A second novel
Lebanon was published in 1944. When her second husband passed away in 1976, Caroline moved to a little mountain home so remote that visitors had to drive through a cow pasture taking care to close a maze of gates behind them. As guests approached her home they would recognize the familiar border of flowers on both side of the walk that had always welcomed her friends in every house she had lived in. She lived quietly there, doors unlocked, surrounded by her books and writing materials. Quilting, embroidery and knitting projects were close at had. Caroline died in Waynesville at the age of 88 in 1992 and until her death she continued to write every day, leaving several unpublished manuscripts.
“And while I found my book among these people, I also found something which helped me. I discovered the fine spirit in which they met the hardships and tragedies. What they suffered and their nobility in the midst of desperate conditions made my own problems less difficult. I hope that I have captured something of their patience and courage and faith, not only in my book, but also for myself”.
Nell Bates Penland, “Twins Inspire Georgia Book”, The Atlanta Journal, October 15, 1933
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