Thursday, May 19, 2011

Davidson County History

Home Demonstration work began in 1914 in Davidson County when the County Commissioners, at the urging of the women in the county, put up $600 to hire an agent. A matching sum was supplied by the state. Miss Eunice Penny, the first Home Demonstration agent, traveled by horse and buggy throughout the rural areas of the county organizing Tomato Clubs for girls and Home Demonstration Clubs for women. She paid for supplies or equipment out of her salary. She was widely known for her “fireless” cooker, which allowed her to arrive at a club meeting with a cooked the chicken! The chicken was placed a in specially designed container and hot bricks provided the heat for cooking.
Miss Penny had a sincere interest in people, a wonderful personality and enthusiasm and ability. She left after three years to marry a county farm agent.
In the early years, Home Demonstration programs were designed mainly to teach rural women basic skills in preparing and preserving food and for making and caring for adequate clothing. For many years, the home agents attended every monthly club meeting. Later, their time and expertise were more widely used by county and city citizens. 
In July of the Depression year 1932, the Commissioners failed to appropriate funds for the position. Davidson County was without a Home Demonstration agent for six years. Arcadia, Fairgrove, Hedrick’s Grove, and Reeds Home Demonstration clubs kept active, giving the demonstrations and working constantly with other women to secure funds for an agent.  Mrs. R. Lee Palmer of Tyro was one of the leaders in this effort.
Funds were restored and on September 18, 1938. Miss Sara Louise Weaver came to the county and with the support of the women, reorganized old clubs and organized new clubs. In a short time, Home Demonstration and 4-H Clubs were thriving in 15 areas of the county and membership had increased appreciably.
On November 30, 1938, the Davidson County Council of Home Demonstration Clubs was organized with Mrs. C.C McCoin of Thomasville serving as temporary president. In January 1939, Mrs. R.C Lanning of Wallburg was elected as president. Since then, the Council has coordinated the work of the clubs and initiated special projects. Concerned effort made it possible to achieve many goals which would have been impossible for individual clubs. The impact of these activities through the years on the quality of life in Davidson County cannot be overestimated. 
Clubs took on projects to meet the needs of their respective communities, and individual members provided leadership in church, school, and community projects.  The achievements of these clubs is a very important part of this history and all their histories need to be read to grasp the full significance of their contributions to better living.
As members of a local club, women are automatically members of a district (Davidson is the Northern Piedmont); members of the North Carolina Extension Homemakers Association, the national organization and the international Associated Country Women of the World which numbers 8 ½ million members in 164 countries.  Davidson County Extension Homemakers number 385 in 20 clubs and 111 members at large.  State membership total 16,814 in 1,126 clubs. National membership totals 312,413. 
For over 50 years, dozens of Davidson County farmers and farm women traveled to what was then NC State College for the annual Farm and Home Week. They roomed in men’s dormitories with bunk beds, hall bathrooms and no air conditioning! They attended classes all day long designed to improve and update their farming and homemaking skills.  In the evenings there was singing and entertainment in the Riddick football stadium. On Thursday of that week the NC Federation of Home Demonstration Clubs held their annual meeting with hundreds of club women from throughout the state in attendance. All the women wore white dresses, hats and gloves for this big day!
In 1967, Home Demonstrations Clubs became Extension Homemakers Clubs, a name more descriptive of the partnership with the Extension Service and the role of club member in the home
Throughout the history of the Davidson County Agricultural Fair, club women have played an important role.  They have served as chairman of various departments and worked most of the week to keep everything moving smoothly.  For 10 or more years each club entered an exhibit around a central theme. These exhibits were judged and winners were given cash prizes.  Competition was keen and many clubs displayed outstanding exhibits.  In more recent years all of the clubs have cooperated on a single comprehensive exhibit and the Fair Association pays the County Council a significant sum for this popular feature of the Fair. The exhibit is staffed throughout the week by club members.
In 1979, Homemakers showcased their organization in an exhibit entitled “Homemakers in History” in the Davidson County Historical Museum. The history of the organization was depicted in pictures and memorabilia.  Also exhibited were the various programs of work including Citizenship, International, Family Life and Youth, Music and Cultural Arts, Health and Safety, Foods, Clothing, and House Furnishings. This exhibit remained for three months and drew considerable praise from the public.
Handicrafts have played a popular and important role through the years. Many club women have become skilled craftsman and they have conducted hundreds of workshops to teach their crafts to eager learners. 
Eleven county women have been honored by the state North Carolina Extension Homemakers Association with Honorary Life Memberships.  
The club women of this county have been blessed through the years with exceptional home agents who were known first as Home Demonstration Agents and then became Home Economics Extension Agents.  These outstanding women have provided foresight and vision in this 80 year journey. Without them, there would have been no journey. The travelers would have fallen by the wayside. The agents have shared their reservoir of Home Economics expertise and tirelessly given encouragement, always believing in the women and their leadership potential. They were out in front, but never so far ahead that the women could not see and follow. They all live in the hearts of the club women who have loved them and known them as friends as well as mentors.
--From information submitted by the Davidson County Extension Center, NC Cooperative Extension Service

If you’d like to see what’s going on today at the Davidson County Extension Center, take a look at the county center's web site and these articles and photos from The Dispatch:

No comments:

Post a Comment