Work, Family, and Faith: Rural Southern Women in the Twentieth Century

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Overview

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the majority of rural southerners were dependent on agriculture and eked out a living as tenants on land owned by someone else. Women took on multiple duties, from child rearing to labor in the fields, to help meet their own goals of independence, well-being, and family persistence on the land. Over the course of the century, however, women found their lives and their work transformed. Government intervention, the Great Depression, and industrial job opportunities created by the two world wars and the development of Sun Belt industries lured or pushed tens of thousands of black and white rural southerners off the land.

As the American South changed around them, becoming more urban and industrialized, some women struggled to help their families survive in the increasingly large-scale and commercial agricultural economy, while other women eagerly seized opportunities to engage in rural reform, get better educations, and work at off-farm jobs. Whether they moved to the cities or stayed on the farms, most of these women continued to struggle against poverty and relied on tradition and inner strength to get by.

This well-researched, sharply focused, and keenly insightful collection of essays takes readers across the twentieth-century South, from rural roadside stands to tobacco fields to Sloss-Sheffield Steel’s “Sloss Quarters” in Birmingham. Covering the full scope of southern rural women’s varied lives, this book will be of particular value to anyone interested in sociology, women’s studies, or southern history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

This collection . . . represents state-of-the-art women’s history. It proves the point that women’s historians have long asserted but not always demonstrated: that unless women’s lives are considered, the history of societies’ economic, political, and social realms will remain incomplete and inadequately understood.”
—Victoria Bynum, author of Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826216298
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Edition description: index, illustrations
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Melissa Walker is Associate Professor of History at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She is the coeditor of Southern Women at the Millennium: A Historical Perspective (University of Missouri Press) and the author of All We Knew Was to Farm: Rural Women in the Upcountry South, 1919–1941.

Rebecca Sharpless is Director of the Institute for Oral History at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She is the author of Fertile Ground, Narrow Choices: Women on Texas Cotton Farms, 1900–1940 and the coauthor of Rock Beneath the Sand: Country Churches in Texas.

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