Women in Missouri History: In Search of Power and Influence

By Leeann Whites; Mary C. Neth et al. | Go to book overview

“We Are Practicable, Sensible Women”

The Missouri Women Farmers' Club and the
Professionalization of Agriculture

Rebecca S. Montgomery

In July of 1910, Progressive journalist Ida M. Tarbell of American Magazine wrote the governor of Missouri “asking for the names of two or three women who are doing things which are deserving of public notice and approach.” Governor Herbert Hadley found it difficult to narrow his selection of prominent female leaders to such a small number. He, in turn, contacted the president of the Missouri General Federation of Women's Clubs for advice in the matter. One name on the list that Hadley subsequently drew up was that of Frances Pearle Mitchell of Rocheport, Missouri, whom he described as “a successful farmer” in his reply to Tarbell. In this instance, as in so many others, Mitchell was recognized primarily for her work in agriculture rather than for her numerous organizational activities in women's clubs and the church. This recognition stemmed from the simple fact that the main difference separating her from most other middle-class clubwomen was her public assumption of the identity of “farmer.” Although she, as a woman farmer, was considered an oddity, Mitchell was not alone in making a claim for the legitimacy of agriculture as a profession for women. She represented educated women of means who, like many of their prosperous fathers and brothers, desired to perpetuate the family farming tradition even when other sources of self-support were available. Five months after Governor Hadley responded to Tarbell's inquiry, Mitchell helped to found the Missouri Women Farmers' Club

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