Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level





Jeannie Whayne

Committee Member

Elliott West

Second Committee Member

Patrick Williams


Arkansas, Food History, Food Power, gendered roles, Nineteenth Century, Rural, Women


Arkansas foodways in the late nineteenth century were defined by times of plenty and scarcity, need and connection, traditions and innovations. These components created a unique culture in which women through food exchange, were able to improve their standard of living. The years of plenty established in the antebellum era lay in stark contrast to the scarcity during the Civil War. What followed during the Progressive Era are fascinating histories of women employing their agency to empower and improve not only their lives but also future generations. I argue that these women utilized their agency to engage in “food power,” which I define as the capacity or ability a person acquires to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events by participating in food exchange. When a woman acts as an agent in the cultural and economic practice of creating, gifting, or receiving food, she does so to improve her own standard of living and/or to influence the behavior of others or the course of events. This thesis provides evidence in support of my theory of food power.