Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff 
Birdena Bishop Staff 1940-1946
Birdena Belle (Russell) Bishop (born c. 1900)


Birdena Bishop. 1935 graduation photo in Berea College yearbook, The Chimes. [pmss_archives_birdena_bishop.jpg]



TAGS: Birdena Bishop, boarding high schools, Mary Jane Bishop Hobgood, James (Jim) Bishop, teachers, dieticians, education, foodways, community sociology, Roscoe Giffin, Berea College



Teacher, Community Groups Coordinator 1940-1944
Dietitian 1944-1946

TAGS: Birdena Bishop, boarding high schools, Mary Jane Bishop Hobgood, James (Jim) Bishop, teachers, dieticians, education, foodways, community sociology, Roscoe Giffin, Berea College

Birdena Bishop came to Pine Mountain in 1940. She held a variety of responsibilities at the School during the boarding high school years. As a widow with two adolescent children, she knew well how to cope with adolescents and had been well-seasoned by similar employments prior to Pine Mountain Settlement School (PMSS). She was a 1938 graduate of Berea College (Kentucky), a close affiliate of Pine Mountain School, and retained her connections with the college throughout her life.

After her time at Pine Mountain, she was employed by Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina, for several years where she became a much-admired housemother and participant in the farm school life.


 In a letter to Director Glyn Morris, dated May 9, 1940, Mrs. Birdena B. Bishop inquired about open positions at the Pine Mountain Settlement School. To show her fitness, “both by training and natural aptitude for personnel work” to work at the School, she described her background:

“My initial nineteen years were spent in rural and small-town atmosphere of central Illinois, the oldest of four children, daughter of a moderately successful businessman. My mother’s death while I was still in high school resulted in early acceptance of adult responsibilities — homemaking and childcare. Three years of substitute teaching in our town school (keeping house at the same time) were followed by five years in an office of the Chicago Northwestern Railway in Chicago. It was there that I met and married a Kentuckian (a Clay Countian), who was a Chicago high school teacher. For eight years following, we work with young people, our home a gathering place for them, both from school and from church. During that time I served for several years as editor of our monthly church publication, The Austin Congregationalist. Summer vacations were always spent in the Kentucky hills, and my interest in and concern for young people in the mountains grew steadily with every contact.

“In 1931, my husband’s health was such that it was necessary for us to leave the city. We came to Berea, spent two quiet years here before his death in October 1933. The next September, I entered Berea College as a freshman, received my A.B. degree, with majors in sociology and English, at the end of four years, then last year returned to school for a full year of post-graduate work. My deepest interests have been in the field of social service….”

Later that May, Mrs. Bishop accepted the positions of coordinator of the Community Groups and Sociology teacher for the upcoming school year. She served in those roles from 1940 to 1944, then worked as the School’s dietitian for another two years.


“Me and kids.” Birdena Bishop, Jane ,and Jim at Putney Fire Tower, ‘Mountain Day,” 1940s. [bishop_06_005.jpg]

When Birdena came to Pine Mountain she brought her two children, ages 11 and 12, with her from Berea, where she was working as the assistant cashier for the college. Both Mary Jane Bishop and her brother, James (Jim) Monroe Bishop, became PMSS students and later, like their mother, graduated from Berea College. Jane served many years on the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana. She was also a long-time member of the PMSS Advisory Council to the Board of Trustees and the Pine Mountain Association of Alumni & Friends (1976-2002).  Jim made a career with American Airlines.

Birdena lovingly collected photographs and memorabilia related to the Pine Mountain years in her Photograph Album.

BIRDENA BISHOP: Speaker and Writer

Birdena was also a skilled speaker and writer and often called upon to share her educational experience with various institutions.

While at Pine Mountain Settlement School her talks were centered on Pine Mountain Settlement School and her passion for education, industrial training, and life in Appalachia. Several of her talks were more philosophical. Her short inspirational talk, “A Philosophy of Freedom,” for the 1942 commencement at Pine Mountain Settlement School perhaps captures best her personal drive and heartfelt convictions regarding her work and life and what she hoped for in the students at Pine Mountain.

She generally wrote out her speeches in longhand or in detailed notes. Her talks and her notes are included in a large scrapbook which she assembled and presented to Pine Mountain Settlement School by her family following her death in 1989. The Birdena Bishop Scrapbook Collection captures life at the School during the early 1940s when the School was undergoing rapid change under the leadership of Director Glyn Morris. These were also the war years, and the impact of WWII on the School is well documented. The ephemera she gathered in the scrapbook covers special events at the School, routine rule changes, administrative guidelines instituted by Glyn Morris, and a rich assortment of correspondence and evidence of her work with the educational program at the School.

BIRDENA BISHOP: Community Study Participant

She also participated in the “Community Study” of Pine Mountain which included correspondence, survey questionnaires, data tabulations, a draft report, and published articles relating to the socio-economic study of the area in 1950 by Dr. Roscoe Giffin, a Berea College Sociology professor. The study attempted to document the location of households and life-styles of the community surrounding Pine Mountain. Birdena created a large map of the community and located family homes on the map for the study. She also contributed to the narrative and data assembled in the study. This important Pine Mountain Community Study was fundamental to the understanding of the community surrounding Pine Mountain Settlement School and how it contributed to the work of the settlement institution.

The full study is gathered in the Berea College archive and can be accessed here: Guide to the Pine Mountain Community Study Records, 1948-1965.


Birdena Belle Russell was born in approximately 1900 in Gillespie, Illinois. On July 21, 1923, she married James Monroe Bishop (1897-1933), who was born in Newfound, Kentucky. Both of their children were born in Oak Park (Cook County), Illinois: James Monroe Bishop Jr., birth date October 30, 1927, and Mary Jane Bishop, birth date January 16, 1929.

See Also: 

BIRDENA BISHOP – Chapel Talk (PMSS) November 22, 1942

BIRDENA BISHOP Correspondence I 1940-1946
BIRDENA BISHOP Correspondence II 1946-1962

BIRDENA BISHOP Guide to Scrapbook Collection

BIRDENA BISHOP Jane and Jim Progress Reports 1940-1943 

BIRDENA BISHOP Kitchen Reports 1944-1947

BIRDENA BISHOP A Philosophy of Freedom PMSS Commencement Speech 1942

BIRDENA BISHOP Photograph Album

BIRDENA BISHOP Women’s Assembly Talk Berea College March 28 1942

LAND USE MAP Community Residents 1934 – 1942 (Created by Birdena Bishop)
PINE MOUNTAIN COMMUNITY STUDY (Bishop assisted with this Berea College archive)

JANE BISHOP HOBGOOD Student (Biography of Birdena Bishop’s daughter)


Birdena Bishop

Alt. Title

Birdena Belle Russell Bishop ; Mrs. Bishop ;



Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Birdena Bishop; boarding high schools ; Jane Bishop ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; speakers ; motivators ; industrial training ; commencement speeches ; Glyn Morris ; war years ; community studies ; surveys ; socio-economic studies ; dietitians ; scrapbooks ; housemothers ; education ; Dr. Roscoe Giffin ; maps ; Berea College ; 

Subject LCSH

Bishop, Birdena Belle, — 1899-1989.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Women — Appalachian Region, Southern — Intellectual life.
Mountain people — Appalachian Region.
Women — Appalachian Region.
Mountain people.
COOKING — Regional & Ethnic — American — Southern States.
SOCIAL SCIENCE — Agriculture & Food.
Appalachian Region, Southern — Social life and customs.
Folk dance music — Appalachian Region.


2014-11-29 hw


Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.




Text ; image ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet and large scrapbook.


Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel.




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 27: Scrapbooks and Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel.

Coverage Temporal

1899 – 1989

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Swannanoa, NC ; Berea, KY ; Chicago, IL ; Urbana, IL ; Gillespie, IL ; Newfound, KY ; Oak Park, IL ;


Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.




Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Birdena Bishop ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Birdena Bishop ;




“[Identification of Item],” [Collection Name] [Series Number, if applicable]. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;


Last Updated

2014-11-29 hhw, 2015-04-29 aae, 2016-06-14 aae, 2016-08-14 hhw, 2021-01-09 hhw, 2021-03-15 aae


Pine Mountain Community Study of 1950. OCLC Number: 191916785. Description: 3.2 lin. ft. Partial copy held at Pine Mountain Settlement School, Harlan County, KY. Archival material.



Birdena Bishop Correspondence I 1940-1946,” Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1940,” database, FamilySearch ( : 18 May 2016), Birdena Belle Russell in entry for James Monroe Bishop, 30 Oct 1927; citing Oak Park, Cook, Illinois, United States, reference/certificate 2062, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm. Internet resource.

Staff Directory 1913 – Present ” Series 09; Staff/Personnel. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 17 May 2014), Mary Jane Bishop in household of Birdena B Bishop, Berea, Magisterial District 6, Madison, Kentucky, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 76-18, sheet 11B, family 259, NARA digital publication T627 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012), roll 1337. Internet resource.

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