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 together maintaining forces in early twentieth-century the US. yet has the dominance of the city imaginary obscured the significance of the agricultural? How have girls, particularly, appropriated discourses and photographs of rurality to interrogate the issues of modernity? and the way have they imbued the rural-traditionally considered as a locus for conservatism-with a revolutionary political valence?Touching on such assorted topics as eugenics, reproductive rights, advertisements, the financial system of literary prizes, and the position of the digicam, a brand new Heartland demonstrates the value of rurality to the resourceful development of modernism/modernity; it additionally asserts that ladies, as items of scrutiny in addition to brokers of critique, had a unique stake in that relation. Casey lines the beliefs informing America's perception of the agricultural throughout a large box of representational domain names, together with social conception, periodical literature, cultural feedback, images, and, so much specially, women's rural fiction ("low" in addition to "high"). Her argument is trained by means of archival study, so much crucially via a cautious research of The Farmer's spouse, the only nationally disbursed farm magazine for ladies and a bit identified repository of rural American attitudes. via this wide scope, a brand new Heartland articulates an alternate mode of modernism via tough orthodox rules approximately gender and geography in twentieth-century the US.

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

Sample text

The farm woman’s fundamental working-class status resided in a body marked doubly by labor, productive as well as reproductive. For starters, it was assumed that farm women of the period were wives and mothers; as Deborah Fink points out, arguments that farm life was more egalitarian, and thus advantageous, for women tended to overlook the fact that marriage was a virtual prerequisite for women’s participation. )49 But it was the extent of their productive work that most acutely distinguished farm women from their bourgeois counterparts.

32 The image of the ill-treated farm wife on which such humor was predicated surely had some basis in fact, as indicated by Gilman’s survey and by many published and unpublished letters of rural women. Yet the very visibility of the trope may have helped to neutralize farm women’s critiques of their circumstances, since their stories, which aligned them with familiar caricatures, could potentially be dismissed as popular exaggeration. In any case, serious, sustained attention to the farm woman and her problems was not forthcoming.

Typical was one wife’s letter on the “Household” page of the Farm Journal, which suggested that, while farm men were not deliberately cruel, their women were nonetheless worked to death, never managing even to garner the attention lavished on the barnyard creatures: “If [a farmer] would look his wife over with the same judgment and discrimination that he does his stock, he might mend his ways, for most men are more thoughtless than really unkind. If a horse goes off his feed, loses flesh and drags along, he is laid off work a while and his food attended to,—a good policy to pursue with the wife.

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