The advent of modern agribusiness irrevocably changed the patterns of life and labor on the American family farm. In Entitled to Power, Katherine Jellison examines midwestern farm women's unexpected response to new labor-saving devices.
Federal farm policy at mid-century treated farm women as consumers, not producers. New technologies, as promoted by agricultural extension agents and by home appliance manufacturers, were expected to create separate spheres of work in the field and in the house. These innovations, however, enabled women to work as operators of farm machinery or independently in the rural community. Jellison finds that many women preferred their productive roles on and off the farm to the domestic ideal emphasized by contemporary prescriptive literature. A variety of visual images of farm women from advertisements and agricultural publications serve to contrast the publicized view of these women with the roles that they chose for themselves. The letters, interviews, and memoirs assembled by Jellison reclaim the many contributions women made to modernizing farm life.
Book News Annotation:
Jellison (history, Ohio U.) explores how women in the rural American midwest reacted to the introduction of machinery into farming between World War I and the Vietnam War. They didn't respond as they were expected to, or as most people still assume they did: facing a choice between driving a vacuum cleaner or driving a tractor, they often chose the tractor, where the money was to be made. It has been harder since then to keep up the image of farming as a guy's job. Paper edition (unseen), $13.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.