Date of Graduation

5-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

History

Advisor

Jeannie Whayne

Committee Member

Patrick Williams

Second Committee Member

Kathryn Sloan

Keywords

Arkansas, Extension programs, Home demonstration, Home demonstration clubs

Abstract

Home demonstration work in Arkansas altered the farm woman’s role within the household, community, and farm economy. By raising the standard of living in rural homes, progressive reforms sought to make domestic life more comfortable and healthy for family members, as well as reduce demands for them. However, rural women used these programs to improve their living conditions while remaining effective producers on the farm. In this respect, home demonstration programs were more than a means of social control aimed at rural America; they were a resource for rural women. Analyzing how women responded and utilized the skills learned from home demonstration clubs enables us to better understand how these programs helped families adjust to the dynamic changes taking place in the twentieth century countryside.

Women’s experiences with home demonstration work provided an opportunity to learn new skills and fostered a community of multi-generational women in rural Arkansas. These experiences transformed women’s sense of importance outside the home and exposed them to aspects of community uplift and the market economy revealing an increase in rural women’s political consciousness. Home demonstration programs introduced middle-class ideals, household products, and a heighted consumerism into the countryside drastically altering value-systems within the rural home. At the same time, rural women’s involvement in voluntary organizations such as home demonstration clubs helped them develop their talents, gain confidence, and participate more actively in local communities. Women’s experiences with home demonstration work in Arkansas are another example of an indigenous movement, reflecting a continuation of rural feminism in Arkansas - one we continue to see today.

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