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Drawing on court records, wills, deeds, and census data as well as memoirs and interviews, Fink develops a nuanced, persuasive picture of the hardships -- and the occasional pleasures -- of farm life on the plains. Herself the great-granddaughters of Nebraska settlers, she vividly conveys the isolation, environmental rigors, marital tensions, and psychological stresses of child-rearing experienced by many women who nevertheless paid dutiful homage to the agrarian ideal.
Even after farms had become well established in the area, the lives of rural women were not significantly eased, and rarely were they able to effect major changes in their own lives. When the agricultural boom collapsed during the 1920s, more women began to supplement farm income with earnings from jobs in local towns. But the cultural assumptions about women's domestic roles remained unchanged. Even if they worked outside the home and outside the farm, wives were still responsible for raising the children and maintaining the household.
Although sparse population, political marginality, and the agricultural economy have created a unique rural culture in the United States, Fink shows that gender contradictions have not been confined to urban life. Agrarian Women will spark fresh debate about the nature of the family farm and the ideology that has sanctified it.
Originally published in 1992.
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