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"Better Homes on Better Farms": Domestic Reform in Rural Tennessee

"Better Homes on Better Farms": Domestic Reform in Rural Tennessee standards of convenience and beauty." Now, she declared, rural women "realize[d] that their homes must be modern, convenient and comfortable if their boys and girls . . . are to be kept satisfied on the farm."1 Keller's words echoed the claim made almost a decade and a half earlier by Thomas Peck, then Tennessee commissioner of education. "Give the farm women a chance to make their homes what they desire," Peck had urged, "and they will do much toward solving the problem of keeping the boys and girls permanently on the farm."2 This essay traces Tennessee's rural home improvement campaigns from 1914 through the 1920s, exploring the processes that shaped efforts at reforming rural domestic material culture. Despite Keller's and Peck's claims, rural domestic reform elicited little response from Tennessee women until the extension service meshed home improvement with the expansion of consumer culture into rural areas and farm women's own interests. Their experiences suggest that the history of progressive reform in the rural South is a more complex story than the imposition of middle-class standards on rural households, the absorption of the rural South into a national mainstream, or farm women's resistance to reform. Rural women who http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies University of Nebraska Press

"Better Homes on Better Farms": Domestic Reform in Rural Tennessee

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Publisher
University of Nebraska Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2001 by Frontiers Editorial Collective.
ISSN
1536-0334
Publisher site
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Abstract

standards of convenience and beauty." Now, she declared, rural women "realize[d] that their homes must be modern, convenient and comfortable if their boys and girls . . . are to be kept satisfied on the farm."1 Keller's words echoed the claim made almost a decade and a half earlier by Thomas Peck, then Tennessee commissioner of education. "Give the farm women a chance to make their homes what they desire," Peck had urged, "and they will do much toward solving the problem of keeping the boys and girls permanently on the farm."2 This essay traces Tennessee's rural home improvement campaigns from 1914 through the 1920s, exploring the processes that shaped efforts at reforming rural domestic material culture. Despite Keller's and Peck's claims, rural domestic reform elicited little response from Tennessee women until the extension service meshed home improvement with the expansion of consumer culture into rural areas and farm women's own interests. Their experiences suggest that the history of progressive reform in the rural South is a more complex story than the imposition of middle-class standards on rural households, the absorption of the rural South into a national mainstream, or farm women's resistance to reform. Rural women who

Journal

Frontiers: A Journal of Women StudiesUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Jan 4, 2001

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