Family Feuds

Aunt Molly Shares the Spotlight with Siblings Jim Garland and Sarah Ogan Gunning

Family tensions resurfaced during Aunt Molly's years in New York City, most of them rooted in Jackson's selfish protection of her newfound celebrity.

Jackson was jealous of attention paid to her brother Jim Garland and sister, Sarah Ogan Gunning (also a singer and songwriter), upon their arrival in the city. Aunt Molly claimed authorship of her siblings' songs (like "The Death of Harry Simms") and generally mistreated them—one time she and her husband Gus Stamos ate the Christmas dinners sent from benefactors to be shared with the rest of the family (Romalis 111). Despite the care she showed her family at other times—she delivered Jim's children and nursed them in illness—Jackson in these years revealed her capacity for deceit when she deemed it necessary for survival, or self-promotion.

Had she lived to witness the urban folk revival of the 1960s, Aunt Molly would have turned green with jealousy to see her sister and brother's folksongs so widely celebrated. Jim Garland and Sarah Ogan Gunning both performed at the Newport Folk Festival in the early 1960s; their friend Pete Seeger was influential in garnering attention for their music.


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Jim Garland at Newport 1963.

Jim Garland performs at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. See larger image.


Kentucky Mountain Singers.

The Kentucky Mountain Singers at the New York World's Fair, 1938. See larger image.


Sarah Gunning at Newport.

Sarah Ogan Gunning with Pete Seeger at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, during the height of the 1960s folk revival. See larger image.