Hatties Place


Hattie’s Place

Hattie’s Place is the story of Hattie Robinson’s determination to overcome the restraints of South Carolina society in the 1900s. It tears at the heartstrings even as it inspires.

Hattie's Place by Kathy Stillerman Book Cover

A letter from Will Kendrick breaks Hattie Robinson’s heart one week before her 1907 graduation from Greenville Female College. He’s ended their engagement, making mysterious references to events preventing him from committing to their relationship.

Alone and confused by Will’s cryptic letter, Hattie takes a position as an elementary school teacher in Calhoun, South Carolina, and tries to put her life back together. She moves in with prominent attorney Charles Barton, his wife Elizabeth, and their four sons.

Hattie’s attempts to start a new life are continually interrupted. A visit from Will shakes her to her core, while a tragedy in the Barton family throws her new home into turmoil.

Work offers little solace. With no legislation regulating child labor laws, South Carolina provides little help for teachers concerned with their charges’ welfare. But when an abusive father forces his ten-year-old daughter to quit school and take a back-breaking job at the local textile mill, Hattie knows she has to act, even if doing so puts her job at risk.


Study Questions

  1. How do you relate to Hattie’s initial reaction to Will’s letter, when she told herself, “I will not be the object of anybody’s gossip or pity”?
  2. What does the dinner conversation in Chapter 3 reveal about the parenting styles of Elizabeth and Charles? Were they similar or different from your parents?
  3. What do you think of the advice Reverend Fitts gave to Hattie when she went to school to sign her contract? “New teachers are often quite eager to be liked by the students and tend to be quite lenient in managing student behavior. Students sometimes mistake kindness for weakness and will take advantage of such situations.”
  4. Do you agree with the way Hattie handled the bullying situation with Tom Givens? Was Reverend Fitts right in saying that in demonstrating to Tom how it feels to be a bully, she behaved a bit like a bully herself?
  5. How do you think the teaching profession has changed since Hattie’s day? What elements are similar today?
  6. To which of the characters in Hattie’s Place do you most relate?
  7. Is the ending satisfying to you? How would you change it if you could?
  8. How does historical fiction like Hattie’s Place remind you of the saying “the more things change, the more they remain the same”.