Women of the Grange: Mutuality and Sisterhood in Rural America, 1866-1920

By Donald B. Marti | Go to book overview

1
Graces, Lecturers, and the Changing "Appearance of Equality"

Women were part of the Grange almost from its first stirring in Oliver Hudson Kelley's imagination. Early in 1866, while touring the south making observations for the United States Department of Agriculture and President Andrew Johnson, Kelley noticed in his "intercourse with the planters," who might have been expected to show some hostility to a Massachusetts Yankee lately from Minnesota, that "it was evidently no disadvantage to be a member of the Masonic fraternity, and as such I was cordially received." In fact, Freemasonry was enjoying a great surge of popularity then; membership grew from nearly 194,000 in 1860 to 446,000 ten years later. Observing that, and sharing Andrew Johnson's hope for a swift national reunion, Kelley imagined a "Secret Society of Agriculturists" that would help to "restore kindly feelings" between the sections. He immediately mentioned the idea in a letter to his niece, Caroline Hall, and discussed it with her a little later that spring. She suggested that women be allowed full membership in the new order. Kelley's 1875 history of the Grange recalls, with strong typographical emphasis, that "THIS FEATURE ORIGINATED WITH HER."1

Hall's idea was genuinely original. Earlier agricultural societies had limited membership to men, though women had been welcome to participate in their fairs; existing fraternal organizations, other than the Good Templars, either excluded women or confined them to side degrees. Indeed, a historian of Freemasonry suggests that men enjoyed the fraternity in part because it was all male. It got them away from their wives, whom Masonic jokes characterized as "domestic tyrants."2 Masons, another scholar argues, rejected the orthodox nineteenth- century "identification of women as the moral custodians of society . . .

-19-

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Women of the Grange: Mutuality and Sisterhood in Rural America, 1866-1920
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Women's Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 13
  • 1- Graces, Lecturers, and The Changing "Appearance Of Equality" 19
  • Notes 31
  • 2- Teachers, Farmers, and Famous Grangers 35
  • Notes 51
  • 3- Literary Entertainment 55
  • Notes 69
  • 4 - Drudgery and Home Economics 73
  • Notes 85
  • 5- Women's Committees 89
  • Notes 102
  • Notes 120
  • 7- Remaining Tasks and Recent Changes 125
  • Notes 138
  • Conclusion 141
  • Note on Sources 145
  • Index 153
  • About the Author 159
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