Carolyn Curry

An intimate story of devastating loss and ultimate triumph . . . The courage, perseverance, and metamorphosis of a real life Scarlett O’Hara.

 Pat Conroy

Suffer and Grow Strong

The Life of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas (1834-1907)

Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas was an intelligent, spirited woman born in 1834 to one of the wealthiest families in Georgia. At fourteen, she began keeping a diary. Her accounts of life before, during, and after the Civil War filled 13 volumes with 450,000 words. The war and its aftermath changed her life forever. She experienced poverty, illness, and devastating family strife. She saw four of her ten children die. She grew to question the “peculiar institution” upon which the antebellum South was built. Through it all, Thomas poured her thoughts into her diary, and through it all, she persevered. In her later years, she became a leading voice in the suffrage and temperance movements.

Pat ConroyAuthor of The Prince of Tides
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Suffer and Grow Strong is a remarkable biography by Carolyn Curry that is destined to become a classic in women’s studies. It tells the story of the redoubtable Ella Gertrude Thomas, who kept a vivid record of her life for forty-one years. Her courage and resilience during and after the Civil War are reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara. History has been a great silencer of women, but Suffer and Grow Strong tells the tale of a white Southern woman who endures the whirlwind of the war and the deprivations of Reconstruction, then fought hard enough for women’s rights that my grandmother was eligible to cast her first vote in 1920. This book is a great achievement for Carolyn Curry.
Kathryn Fuller-SeeleyAuthor and Professor, University of Texas, Austin
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Suffer and Grow Strong is a fascinating story of a remarkable Southern woman. Carolyn Curry ably brings Gertrude Thomas to life through extensive research and explores Thomas’s steel-willed determination to triumph over wartime dislocations and postwar deprivation, her spirited intellect and devotion to her family, and her passionate support of women’s right—important and elegantly written contribution to Southern women’s history.
Michele GillespieDean of the College Endowed Chair of Southern History, Wake Forest University
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Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas’s journals have long been an indispensable source for anyone seeking to understand the nineteenth-century South and Southern white women’s experiences. Yet surprisingly, Thomas has never been the subject of a full-length biography. Carolyn Curry’s welcome new book carefully documents Thomas’s life story and puts her journals into an intriguingly fresh context.
Morna GerrardWomen and Gender Collections Archivist, Special Collections, and Archives
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As enjoyable as it is educational, Carolyn Curry’s Suffer and Grow Strong utilizes journals and contemporary newspapers to vividly recreate the life of one of Georgia’s earliest “feminists.” In doing so, she teaches us about a more domestic Civil War, viewed through the experiences of the women left behind.
Cassandra King ConroyAuthor of The Sunday Wife and Tell Me A Story: My Life with Pat Conroy
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In her role as unlikely feminist and a leader of the suffrage movement, Ella Gertrude Thomas could be the fictional heroine of a rip-roaring historical novel. Instead, Carolyn Curry brings to life a real woman whose courage and endurance is truly inspirational.
Terry KayAuthor of To Dance with the White Dog and The Book of Marie
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Carolyn Curry’s Suffer and Grow Strong is a masterfully researched and written story of a remarkable woman, whose journals recorded soul and spirit and engaging insight into the exploding of history that both illuminated and scarred nineteenth-century American. Carolyn Curry has captured the quintessence of both character and period, and the result is a mesmerizing reading experience.
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