Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Families, Community Residents
Series 19: STUDENTS
Kitty Ritchie, Student, 1920s
Kitty Ritchie Singleton (1920-1989)

Ritchie family portrait (9 people) – Standing in front of shingle-roofed building with wreath on outside wall. [FN Vl_35_1149.jpg]

TAGS: Kitty Ritchie, Kitty Ritchie Singleton, May Belle Ritchie (Deschamps), Mallie Ritchie, Ritchie Family, ballad-singing, Jean Ritchie, Evelyn K. Wells, Craig Evan Royce, dulcimers, Cecil Sharp, Marguerite Butler, Girl Scouts, Helen Osborne Storrow, Berea (KY) College, traditional handicrafts, cornshuck dolls, corn husk craft, First National Girl Scout Leaders’ Training School

KITTY RITCHIE Student 1920s

Kitty Ritchie came from one of the most well-known ballad-singing families of Kentucky; the ‘Singing Family of the Cumberlands.” Music was central to the lives of the Ritchie family. They sang as they went about their house and gardening chores and at family gatherings, a custom that continues in the extended family to this day. Kitty’s youngest sister, Jean Ritchie, became the most well-known of her siblings as a commercial performer, author, recording artist, composer and folk music collector.


Kitty Ritchie was one of six Ritchie children who attended Pine Mountain School throughout the 1920s. (Others in her family of 14 children attended nearby Hindman Settlement School.)  Evelyn K. Wells, a PMSS secretary from 1919 to 1931 and acting director in 1931, described in her 1955 Harvard University talk, “Appalachian Folksongs,” how the Ritchie children contributed to the musical culture at Pine Mountain:

…[It] was from the children that we learned most of our songs … And most all, songs from the Ritchies. Sabrina [Ritchie], Uncle Jason‘s daughter [Jason Ritchie, was first cousin to Jean Ritchie’s father] and our weaving teacher, taught us “The Little Devils,” and “Nottamun [sic] Town,” and “The Wife Wrapt in Wether’s Skin.” May [Ritchie Deschamps] taught us “The Little Family.” Truman [Ritchie] led us in “Going to Boston,” and “Cedar Swamp.” Every Ritchie that came our way — they alternated between the Hindman and the Pine Mountain Schools and of the 14 [children] we drew May and Raymond and Truman and Kitty and Patty and Jewel[l] — they all made contributions to our repertoire. 

In turn, Craig Evan Royce, in his book, Country Miles are Longer Than City Miles (W. Ritchie Press, 1976; AuthorHouse, 2007). quotes Kitty’s recollections of the influence PMSS had on the family’s interest in music:

…[W]hen we went to the Pine Mountain Settlement School, they played up song and dulcimer very much. Edna [Ritchie] was presented a dulcimer there for knowing the most songs and the most ballads. Jean [Ritchie] was little… and then when we would come back from Pine Mountain, several of us, we would meet on the front porch at night…and sing and teach the songs we learned at Pine Mountain. I was at Pine Mountain when Cecil Sharp came, and he taught us a lot and gathered a lot of our songs. Dad learned to play on the Thomas dulcimer Edna won at Pine Mountain.

While attending eighth grade at Pine Mountain, Kitty played the part of Viola in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” a performance that was described by teacher Marguerite Butler in her 1920 letter home as “just about perfect.”

In 1922 Kitty was one of two Girl Scouts at Pine Mountain who received a scholarship to attend the First National Girl Scout Leaders’ Training School at Long Pond in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This opportunity was funded by Helen Osborne Storrow of Boston, an early Girl Scout leader who owned Long Pond and was the founder of the training school.

Kitty Ritchie was part of the first graduating class from Pine Mountain Settlement School’s new high school, as reported in Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School, May 1924, page 3:

Pine Mountain graduates its first High School class this year, and whatever the future of our high school course, we cannot fail to take pride in these graduates, — two girls. One is Kitty Ritchie, the great-grand-daughter of Solomon Everidge, the Uncle Ephraim Kent of Miss Lucy Furman’s “Quare Women”; the other is Elva Lewis, grand-daughter of Uncle William Creech, founder of the Pine Mountain School.

After graduating from Pine Mountain School, Kitty went on to study at Berea (Kentucky) College.


Besides their musical talent, “[n]o thorough study of the traditional handicrafts of the southern highlands has ever been made without the inclusion of some member of the Ritchie family,” writes Craig Evan Royce. Several of the Ritchies were adept at spinning, weaving, quilting, and basket making. Kitty and her sister Mallie learned from their older sister, May Belle Ritchie (Deschamps) a very special craft that she first saw at Hindman Settlement School. It consisted of the construction of dolls, usually in pioneer costume averaging 10 inches in height, from corn shucks, the dried leaves or “husks” of corn cobs.

Cornshuck dolls by Kitty Ritchie Singleton. Image courtesy of Craig Evan Royce from his book, “Country Miles Are Longer Than City Miles.”  [w/ permission of author.] [pmss_ritchie_dolls.png]


Kitty Ritchie was born on March 2, 1904, the sixth child of the 14 children of Abigail (Hall) Ritchie (18771972) and Balis W. Ritchie (18691958). Her siblings were May Belle (born 1896), Ollie M. (1897), Mallie (1899), Una (1900), Raymond (1902), Truman (1906), Patty (1908), Edna (1910), Jewel and Opal (1914), Pauline (1916), Balis Wilmer Jr. (1919) and Jean R. (1922). All the children were born and raised in Viper, Kentucky.

Kitty married Cornelius Singleton. She died on October 3, 1989, at the age of 85 and was buried in the Ritchie Cemetery, Viper, Kentucky.


See Also:
– Biography
OBJECT COLLECTIONS Cornhusk (Corn Shuck) Dolls


Kitty Ritchie

Alt. Title

Kitty Ritchie Singleton




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Kitty Ritchie ; Kitty Ritchie Singleton ; Mallie Ritchie ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; ballad-singing ; Jean Ritchie ; Evelyn K. Wells ; Craig Evan Royce ; dulcimers ; Cecil Sharp ; Marguerite Butler ; Girl Scouts ; Helen Osborne Storrow ; Notes from the Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Berea (KY) College ; traditional handicrafts ; May Belle Ritchie (Deschamps) ; cornshuck dolls ;

Subject LCSH

Ritchie Singleton, Kitty, — 1904 – 1989.
Folk singers — Appalachian Region — Biography.
Ritchie family.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.


2018-09-10 aae


Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Collections ; text ; image ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet


Series 09: Biography – Community Residents ; and Series 19: Students




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 19: Students and Series 09: Biography – Community Residents

Coverage Temporal

1869 – 1989

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Long Pond, Plymouth, MA ; Boston, MA ; Berea, KY ;


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 created by or addressed to Kitty Ritchie; clippings, photographs, publications, illustrations by or about Kitty Ritchie.




“[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

2018-10-00 aae ; 2018-11-07 hhw ; 2024-02-01 aae ;



EVELYN K. WELLS, TALKS 1955 Harvard TalkNOTES – 1924WELLS RECORD 10 PMSS ACADEMIC 1913-1928 ; 1920 MARGUERITE BUTLER LETTERS (Letter #4, Image #034) ; NOTES – 1922 (March, p. 3) ; MAY RITCHIE. Series 09: Biography ; Series 19: Students. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 14 September 2018), memorial page for Kitty Ritchie Singleton (2 May 1904–3 Oct 1989), Find A Grave Memorial no. 147361068, citing Ritchie Cemetery, Viper, Perry County, Kentucky, USA ; Maintained by SWF (contributor 47602327) . Internet resource.

“Kitty Ritchie” Series 09: Biography – Community Residents ; and Series 19: Students. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.


“Mountain Born: The Jean Ritchie Story.” KET Education. [accessed 14-September-2018].

Royce, Craig E. Country Miles Are Longer Than City Miles: 30th Anniversary Edition. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2007. Print. 

Royce, Craig E, and Jeffrey Gitlin. Country Miles Are Longer Than City Miles. Pasadena, Calif: W. Ritchie Press, 1976. Print. PENDING PERMISSION.

“Helen Storrow.” Wikipedia, /wiki/Helen_Storrow (accessed 2018-09-14). Internet resource.

Ritchie, Jean. Singing Family of the Cumberlands. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky, 1988. Internet resource.

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