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All We Knew Was to Farm: Rural Women in the Upcountry South, 1919-1941 (Revisiting Rural America)

All We Knew Was to Farm: Rural Women in the Upcountry South, 1919-1941 (Revisiting Rural America)

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The first book to examine Southern farm women's confrontation with modern America.

***Winner of the Willie Lee Rose Prize given by the Southern Association for Women Historians

In the years after World War I, people of the upcountry South found their world rapidly changing. A postwar plunge in farm prices stretched into a twenty-year agricultural depression. New Deal agricultural programs eventually transformed the economy, pushing many families off the land to make way for larger commercial farms. These changes brought mixed results, but the years between the world wars marked a turning point in the struggle of upcountry women to shape their own lives. New industry and the intervening hand of big government, intruding on once insular communities, forced new choices and redefined the roles of women in this region.

In All We Knew Was to Farm, Melissa Walker carefully examines these critical developments, depicting the southern farm woman's confrontation with modern America. Drawing on personal interviews, archives, family papers, and contemporary government records, Walker reconstructs the stories of rural women dealing with bewildering and unsettling change. Some of them, Walker finds, were forced by the constraints of race and class to choose the best of a bad set of options. Others adapted to change by becoming partners in farm operations, adopting the roles of consumers and homemakers, taking off-farm jobs, or leaving the land. The material lives of rural upcountry women improveddramatically by midcentury; yet in becoming middle class, Walker concludes, they found their lives both broadened and circumscribed.