Co-Sponsored by the Newberry Library, The University of Chicago, and Trinity Christian College
Saturday, April 29, 2006, 11:00am-3:00pm
The Newberry Library
The Farm Woman and Modernity, 1900-1935
Janet Galligani Casey, Skidmore College
This paper presents the farmer's wife as a figure upon whom important modern anxieties converged, considering the various ways that the Farm Woman as a cultural trope was situated within normative models of women as re/productive workers and as consumers. It also makes use of letters and survey responses from the period to illustrate the efforts of rural women to negotiate cultural claims on their bodies and identities. Ultimately it reveals how the farm woman's excessive signification in terms of class, labor, and American identity made her role(s) a hotly contested issue both inside and outside of agrarian contexts.
Trapped in the Country: The Plight of Rural Orphans in Nineteenth Century America
Megan Birk, Purdue University
Dependent children in rural areas, living in what many believed to be the ultimate in healthy environments, found themselves at the mercy of an underdeveloped social welfare system pieced together with mixed results. Rural counties struggled to find good methods to care for dependent children and administrators utilized a small tax based to support dependent children. However, small populations did not necessarily reflect small numbers of children needing care. Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio established this decentralized county system and tried a wide variety of care practices resulting in children living in poor farms, county orphans' homes, privately funded orphans' homes, and "foster" homes. The examination of how this system functioned provides a glimpse into an untapped dynamic of rural life and a new viewpoint to examine the development of social welfare.
Midwestern Farm Families and Poverty: A Preliminary Examination
Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, Iowa State University
Although poverty was a common condition among farming families in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most reformers did not consider it a pressing social problem. Many assumed that poverty in rural communities could be ameliorated by kin and neighbors, and families would be able to solve their own economic dilemmas. Rural poverty, however, proved to be stubborn, and rural communities and states struggled to provide home-grown solutions with the development of poor funds, poor farms, and child welfare institutions. These efforts illustrate both the strengths and weaknesses of anti-poverty programs begun in the era before the Great Depression and New Deal.
All papers are pre-circulated. For a copy of the paper, e-mail Ginger Shulick at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 312.255.3524.
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