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Opening Windows onto Hidden Lives

Women, Country Life, and Early Rural Sociological Research

Julie N. Zimmerman and Olaf F. Larson

Publication Year: 2010

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-ix

The social sciences tend to be ahistorical. Sociologists and others typically seek to explain generalizable social relations, theoretically invariant across time and space, as if the course of historical events matters little. We are especially blind to our own professional and intellectual histories, at best viewing “the past as prologue,” not as operative...

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pp. xi-xiv

This book is an unanticipated consequence of a project initiated to document and analyze the work of the first unit established in the federal government specifically for sociological research, namely the Division of Farm Population and Rural Life in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This unit, started in 1919 and abolished in 1953, was charged with the ...


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pp. xv

Part One: Hidden Windows, Hidden Lives

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Chapter One: Opening Hidden Windows

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pp. 3-9

When historian Katherine Jellison discovered six community studies from the 1940s in the archives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she described them as “among the first works to offer significant discussions of rural gender roles” (1991, 172). Not apparent at the time, however, was that the studies were but one piece of a much larger body of work ...

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Chapter Two: "Agriculture is Not the Whole of Country Life"

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pp. 10-26

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States was undergoing a marked transformation; moving toward being an industrial and urbanized society.1 Characterized as “a complete and fundamental change in our whole economic system” (Commission on Country Life 1917, 37), concerns grew surrounding a wide range of issues. For rural areas, two were ...

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Chapter Three: Women and Rural Society

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pp. 27-45

The embeddedness of women in the Division’s research was influenced by two differing perspectives on the role of women. One saw a larger role for women in society but was particular to rural areas. The other, based on an urban Victorian ideal of separate spheres, firmly placed women within the home. These two views were reflected in two distinct trends at ...

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Chapter Four: Finding Women in the Division's Research

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pp. 46-64

Over its thirty-four-year history, the Division produced more than 1,200 research publications, including 21 books and 234 restricted-use reports and manuscripts (Larson, Moe, and Zimmerman 1992c). This body of work covered forty-four states and thirteen regions in the United States as well as countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. ...

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Chapter Five: The Test of Time

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pp. 65-80

For more than three decades, the Division of Farm Population and Rural Life worked to bring a sociological perspective to changing national needs and helped build a broad knowledge base about rural life. From its first analyses of farm population, rural institutions, and locality groups, over the years the Division’s research grew to include extensive community ...

Part Two: Selected Bibliography

Citations from the Work of the Division of Farm Population and Rural Life, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1919 1953

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pp. 83-129

Part Three: Reprints of Selected Publications

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Reprint 1: Woman's Work on the Farm (1917)

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pp. 133-134

Realizing that the success of country life depends in very large degree on the woman’s part, the Commission has made special effort to ascertain the condition of women on the farm. Often this condition is all that can be desired, with home duties so organized that the labor is not excessive, with kindly coöperation on the part of husbands and sons, and with household machines and conveniences...

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Reprint 2: The Woman on the Farm (1914)

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pp. 135-137

The woman on the farm is a most important economic factor in agriculture. Her domestic work undoubtedly has a direct bearing on the efficiency of the field workers, her handling of the home and its surroundings contributes to the cash intake, and, in addition, hers is largely the responsibility for contributing the social and other features which make farm life satisfactory...

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Reprint 3: Recommendations of the Committee (1919)

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pp. 138-145

In accordance with the recommendations of the committee appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to consider plan of organization, scope of work, and projects for the Office of Farm Management (Circular No. 132, Office of the Secretary), it is proposed to transfer to the Office of Farm Management (Bureau of Farm Management...

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Reprint 4: Farm Life Studies and Their Relation to Home Economics Work (1920)

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pp. 146-148

The life side of the farm home will be one of the research projects in Farm Life Studies in the Office of Farm Management, just as the physical basis of the farm home is at present one of the subjects of investigation by the Office of Home Economics in the States Relations Service. Farm Life Studies will not undertake to explore the technical aspects of food, dietetics, clothing, household equipment...

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Reprint 5: The Advantages of Farm Life

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pp. 149-185

The Country Life Commission appointed by President Roosevelt found many unfavorable conditions prevalent in the open country, and gave them wide publicity in its report. This report was not an indictment of country life, but a candid statement of some of the handicaps to the development of the innate...


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pp. 187-212


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pp. 213-221

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271053493
E-ISBN-10: 0271053496
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271037295
Print-ISBN-10: 0271037296

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010