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 jointly maintaining forces in early twentieth-century the USA. yet has the dominance of the city imaginary obscured the significance of the agricultural? How have girls, 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 various topics as eugenics, reproductive rights, ads, the economic system of literary prizes, and the position of the digital camera, a brand new Heartland demonstrates the significance of rurality to the creative 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 perception of the agricultural throughout a large box of representational domain names, together with social conception, periodical literature, cultural feedback, images, and, such a lot specifically, women's rural fiction ("low" in addition to "high"). Her argument is trained by way of 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 wide scope, a brand new Heartland articulates an alternate mode of modernism via hard orthodox rules approximately gender and geography in twentieth-century the USA.

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

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Ideally imagined as the helpmate of the mythical American yeoman farmer, she was, by popular definition, neither a member of an ethnic or racial minority nor a tenant—categories that compromised the conception of farming as socially and economically stable. 42 Nor did she substantially challenge the patriarchal structure of farm culture: in theoretical, if not always actual, terms, she accepted her subordinate role, even as she was typically represented as a separate but equal partner. Most important, if she was in need of social or financial assistance, it was not because she failed to work hard but because larger economic circumstances were temporarily disadvantageous to farmers.

Of course, it was the possibility of farm women doing field work, men’s work, that even more sharply defined them as external to middle-class models of gendered behavior. This same letter writer adds, “I make my own garden and have helped rake hay and husk corn. One fall alone I husked between five and six hundred bushels. . ”50 Among other things, such labor appeared to violate the cult of motherhood that sentimentalized woman’s duties at home (every state observed a Mother’s Day by 1911, with a federal mandate following in 1914); it also threatened to perpetuate notions of farming as onerous, possibly contributing to out-migration and further compromising the privileged status of farming in American culture.

Thoroughly idealized rurality and urged a mass return to it, though they too tended to be located outside of working-class farm culture and problematically assumed the attainability of a bucolic rural life, one that would be unaffected by the harsh social and economic realities to which longtime farm families had been subject. 12 Whether idealizing the country as an antidote to modernity’s disruptions, or decrying rural primitiveness and degeneracy as in need of the ameliorative influence of modern, urban-based social and political institutions, agrarian analysts tended to perceive the country from what was essentially an urban perspective.

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