By Janet Galligani Casey
Modernity and urbanity have lengthy been thought of jointly maintaining forces in early twentieth-century the United States. yet has the dominance of the city imaginary obscured the significance of the agricultural? How have ladies, 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 varied topics as eugenics, reproductive rights, ads, the financial system of literary prizes, and the position of the digicam, a brand new Heartland demonstrates the value of rurality to the ingenious building of modernism/modernity; it additionally asserts that girls, as items of scrutiny in addition to brokers of critique, had a different stake in that relation. Casey strains the beliefs informing America's notion of the agricultural throughout a large box of representational domain names, together with social conception, periodical literature, cultural feedback, images, and, so much particularly, women's rural fiction ("low" in addition to "high"). Her argument is knowledgeable through archival study, such a lot crucially via a cautious research of The Farmer's spouse, the only nationally disbursed farm magazine for ladies and a bit identified repository of rural American attitudes. via this huge scope, a brand new Heartland articulates an alternate mode of modernism by way of difficult orthodox principles 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
The farm woman’s fundamental working-class status resided in a body marked doubly by labor, productive as well as reproductive. For starters, it was assumed that farm women of the period were wives and mothers; as Deborah Fink points out, arguments that farm life was more egalitarian, and thus advantageous, for women tended to overlook the fact that marriage was a virtual prerequisite for women’s participation. )49 But it was the extent of their productive work that most acutely distinguished farm women from their bourgeois counterparts.
CRITICAL CARTOGRAPHIES 39 Overall, then, the farm woman’s lifestyle was not easily superimposed onto the middle-class model of womanhood most frequently invoked in public debates about women’s rights and roles—yet the vigorous promotion of the successful farm woman as a bourgeois housewife continued, ironically, throughout the agricultural depression of the 1920s and into the Great Depression of the 1930s, as rural historians such as Jellison have shown. 53 And the public image of the farm woman in both ofﬁcial and popular venues increasingly merged with that of the sub/urban woman, invariably pictured inside the house.
While such imagistic standards say little about what real women on farms were doing and thinking, they reveal a great deal about the perceived need to situate farmers’ wives within acknowledged parameters of modern womanhood, even if such an accommodation was artiﬁcial or forced. Of course, it was not only the farm woman’s relation to productive, incomegenerating ventures that was at stake. The tug-of-war over her body and image was conducted on even more inﬂammatory levels, notably those concerned with her reproductive capacities.