Academic journal article American Studies

PUTTING THE BARN BEFORE THE HOUSE: Women and Family Farming in Early Twentieth-Century New York

Academic journal article American Studies

PUTTING THE BARN BEFORE THE HOUSE: Women and Family Farming in Early Twentieth-Century New York

Article excerpt

PUTTING THE BARN BEFORE THE HOUSE: Women and Family Farming in Early Twentieth-Century New York. By Grey Osterud. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 2012.

In Putting the Bam Before the House, Grey Osterud examines the first forty years of the twentieth century and the complicated economic decisions made by rural women in the Nanticoke Valley of New York State. As the title implies, the major- ity of women in this demographically diverse community believed that the fruits of their labor, whether from the home, barn, field, or off-farm employment, needed to be reinvested in the family's agricultural enterprise. The subject matter explored in this text is not new, but the diversity of the Valley results in historical conclusions that are different from those highlighting other regions of the country. Immigrant women often farmed while their husbands worked in town. Their commitment to owning land and keeping the farm made them more willing to re-invest in the farm with modern labor-saving technologies, but not the farm home. On farms with good soil and enough resources, families chose to concentrate on one crop, often dairy or poultry. On these farms some women actively participated in farming activities, while others adopted divisions of labor that mimicked the prescriptive literature and advice of agricultural reform groups, such as the state's Cooperative Extension Service. Osterud's real contribution is that she looks beyond class, exploring such issues as inheritance, marriage, and rural political and reform organizations. She clearly demonstrates that no one factor entirely influenced a woman's perspective and that rural people are far from monolithic.

The presence of Endicott Johnson and International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in nearby towns changed the make-up of neighborhoods as well as established off-farm employment options. …

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