Thursday, March 28, 2013

Women's History Month: Farm Women

Resources for Researching Your Female Ancestor, Day # 28

One of the subjects I am interested in right now is how the lives of rural women were documented. We tend to downplay the ability to find information about our farm ancestor's lives by stating "they were only farmers" like that means automatically there would be no records. Assuming this would be wrong.

I've been enjoying reading Barbara Handy-Marchello's book Women of the Northern Plains. Gender & Settlement on the Homestead Frontier 1870-1930 . As with all books I read, I started with the bibliography and then moved on to the footnotes to get some inspiration for resources that would be helpful for genealogy and social history. As I worked my way to the Introduction, I quickly saw that many of the sources she used would be vital to family history researchers. Just a few of her sources included:

  • Interviews
  • Dairies and journals
  • Pioneer interviews (conducted by the WPA)
  • Records and interviews  from women's organizations such as the North Dakota Federation of Women's Clubs 
  • Memoirs
She also used other types of materials such as  histories, newspapers, and  government publications.

One of my 4th great-grandmothers was the wife of a farmer and later when her husband was killed, she was the farmer. Information about her life has come from such sources as newspapers, tax records, and histories. I know there is even more out there waiting for me to discover.

Was your female ancestor living in a rural area? Consider looking at the bibliographies and footnotes of these books for ideas on sources:

Fink, Deborah. Agrarian Women: Wives and Mothers in Rural Nebraska, 1880-1940. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Jensen, Joan M. Loosening the Bonds: Mid-atlantic Farm Women, 1750-1850. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986. 

Lauters, Amy M. More Than a Farmer's Wife: Voices of American Farm Women, 1910-1960. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2009. 

Pickle, Linda S. Contented Among Strangers: Rural German-Speaking Women and Their Families in the Nineteenth-Century Midwest. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996. 

Walker, Melissa. All We Knew Was to Farm: Rural Women in the Upcountry South, 1919-1941. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. 

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