"Our cherished ideals": rural women, activism, and identity in the Midwest, 1950-1990

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2008-01-01
Authors
Barker Devine, Jenny
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Abstract

Between 1950 and 1990, American agriculture experienced tremendous changes. New technologies and economic conditions increased production but drastically reduced the number of farm families, and forced many to reconsider definitions of a "family farm." In order to understand the rural response to these changes, this dissertation, titled, "Our Cherished Ideals": Rural Women, Activism, and Identity in the Midwest, 1950-1990," explores women's roles in agricultural organizations in Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska in the latter half of the twentieth century, as well as their relationship to changing economic policies, new technologies, and ideas about gender.;In general, rural women in the Midwest defended the family farm ideal, and they shared an identity rooted in agriculture. They expressed this identity through memberships in organizations, both conservative and radical. Rural women rarely utilized feminist rhetoric to achieve their goals, but rather they declared that they shared an equal stake in the farming enterprise with men. A study of various organizations, including the Farm Bureau, Home Economics Extension clubs, the National Farmer's Organization (NFO), the Iowa Porkettes, and Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE), illustrates that women shared an identity shaped by their relationships to agriculture, considered themselves imperative to farming operations, and consistently utilized social networks to strengthen changing rural communities.

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History;Agricultural history and rural studies;
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