A New Heartland: Women, Modernity, and the Agrarian Ideal in by Janet Galligani Casey

By Janet Galligani Casey

Modernity and urbanity have lengthy been thought of collectively maintaining forces in early twentieth-century the USA. yet has the dominance of the city imaginary obscured the significance of the agricultural? How have ladies, specifically, appropriated discourses and pictures of rurality to interrogate the issues of modernity? and the way have they imbued the rural-traditionally seen as a locus for conservatism-with a innovative political valence?Touching on such assorted matters as eugenics, reproductive rights, advertisements, the economic system of literary prizes, and the position of the digicam, a brand new Heartland demonstrates the significance of rurality to the resourceful development of modernism/modernity; it additionally asserts that girls, as items of scrutiny in addition to brokers of critique, had a distinct stake in that relation. Casey lines the beliefs informing America's notion of the agricultural throughout a large box of representational domain names, together with social concept, periodical literature, cultural feedback, images, and, so much particularly, women's rural fiction ("low" in addition to "high"). Her argument is trained through archival examine, so much crucially via a cautious research of The Farmer's spouse, the only nationally allotted farm magazine for girls and a bit identified repository of rural American attitudes. via this extensive scope, a brand new Heartland articulates an alternate mode of modernism via demanding orthodox rules approximately gender and geography in twentieth-century the United States.

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Additional resources for A New Heartland: Women, Modernity, and the Agrarian Ideal in America

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The years between 1900 and World War I, often referred to as the golden age of American agriculture, witnessed rising prices for farm products, allowing farm families to live in comfort as compared with the dire years of the late nineteenth century. Of course, it was still widely acknowledged that American farmers represented an underclass, making considerably less money on the whole than those in other occupations and subject to unpredictable market fluctuations. 11 Yet the crystallizing moment of organized attention to rural issues, the appointment in 1908 of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Commission on Country Life, was the result of a perceived “need” not by farmers themselves, who were relatively content with present circumstances, but by men outside of farm communities, men in business, politics, and the clergy, as well as teachers in the agricultural colleges and practitioners of the emerging science of rural sociology.

Throughout the twenties, as agricultural conditions indeed worsened, these professionals came to be increasingly valued as arbiters of the so-called rural problem, and a premium was placed on education and theory rather than practical experience. This enmeshment of agrarianism in the growth of institutional and disciplinary conversations, together with the location of such conversations mainly outside of farm communities rather than within them, suggests that the national debate about farmers and their needs and roles was not really about farmers at all.

45 In reality, though, farm women were unlikely to fit such an image, as their labor was rarely circumscribed entirely by house and children. )46 On the other hand, neither did farm women fit neatly into the more liberal “interpenetration” model(s) whereby women increasingly entered into public spheres associated with men and modernity—for instance, as part of the new contingent of women seeking college degrees, as their families’ mediators in the vast consumer marketplace, or as full-blown workers themselves in factories or stores.

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