Daily Distraction: Celebrate Women's History Month with Ohio folklorist Anne Grimes

In the 1950s, the musician and scholar recorded traditional folk songs performed by citizens from all over Ohio

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Anne Grimes, a folk music expert, singer and musician who spent her life recording, performing and documenting Ohio folk songs.

In a recent interview, sound artist Brian Harnetty spoke about the thousands of recordings housed at the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives in Kentucky. Ohio has fewer of such archival recordings, but many of the ones we do have, we owe to Anne Grimes.

Grimes was a folksinger and dulcimer player (and collector) who recorded on the famed Folkways label. A Columbus native and 1912 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, she served as the president of the Ohio Folklore Society, performed at national folk festivals and wrote about dance and music for former Columbus newspaper the Citizen Journal

In the 1950s, Grimes traveled all over the state to speak with Ohioans and record them performing traditional folk songs in their living rooms and on their porches. That collection of recordings (plus photos, papers and other material) eventually found a permanent home at the Library of Congress. 

Anne Grimes died in 2004 at the age of 91, and in a just world, more Ohioans would know her name and recognize her role in preserving the music of this state. Women's History Month seems like as good a time as any to give Grimes a little shine.

To learn more, check out Stories from the Anne Grimes Collection of American Folk Music, which Grimes began before her death and was later completed by her daughters, as well as Grimes' 1957 Folkways Records release, Ohio State Ballads: History Through Folksongs. Here's her version of "Ohio River Blues" below.