Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Praise of the Home Agent and Her Home Demonstration Club Women, 1945

By F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, N.C. State College, Raleigh, as published in the Wilmington Star, June 5, 1944

One of the marvels of North Carolina rural life is the home demonstration agent. For the past few weeks, I have been going about in the state attending district federation meetings held by the organization Home Demonstration Club Women of North Carolina. These interesting visits have taken me east and west and, in each case, the rural women of five or six counties meet together to discuss the affairs of the clubs, to report what was accomplished during the year, and to make plans for the future.

County reports are made at each district gathering, and to hear these reports is to learn how North Carolina is advancing to preeminence upon the unselfish work of her home demonstration club women and the county home demonstration agent.

I have never fathomed what secret source of strength these home agents are able to draw upon. They work day after day with their club women, the 4-H Club girls, and all others who call upon them for suggestions or aid in their rural problems.

The home agents take the cold, hard facts of the technical bulletin and turn the facts into attractive foods, well-fitting clothes, or beautified homes. Not only do they work many hours during the day but they are always ready to visit some private home upon request to aid the mother or homemaker with her special problem.

If this be not enough, she then attends an evening meeting at a remote schoolhouse or community center and should the program prove not so attractive, she must be the life of the party and lead the group in recreational events.

These home agents have an almost sacrificial zeal for their jobs. This is revealed in the reports which the club women make at their district meetings. Not only to the reports tell of food produced and saved, of homes rearranged and beautified, of clothes made or remodeled, and good things to eat prepared and sold at the curb market; but they likewise tell of things done for the community and the county.

Home demonstration clubs have about taken over the Red Cross work out in the country districts; War Bond drives are centered about their local clubs; fats, metal and paper are saved and delivered largely through the influence of the home demonstration club; and many of the boys in nearby Army hospitals have been cheered through the work of the home demonstration club women.

The farm agent and his associates deal with the hard, cold facts of production and marketing; the home agent and her club women deal with the human aspects of rural life, and because these women are progressive, the often cause their hardheaded husbands to continue to make progress over and above what they had originally intended. I do not hesitate to say that much of the North Carolina farming progress in recent years has been due to the work of the home demonstration club women.

That organization has kept its ideals and has added much technical knowledge. Right now, the club women have an over-all blanket or unified plan of work for the entire state.

The plan for this year was made, for instance, when 15 agents representing the various sections of North Carolina were called to Miss Current’s office to meet with the trained specialists and design a plan for 1944.

Before coming to the college, however, the agents talked over the whole matter with their local club women, their neighborhood leaders, and with all who might be interested. Then when the plan was finally agreed upon in the state office, it was carried back to the county and adopted there.

As a result of this careful understanding, one agent may be transferred to another county and still be able to pick up the details of the organization in that new county and go right to work. As a matter of fact, the trained leaders in the several counties are helping the agent with her demonstrations so that this worker is free to contact other women not yet within the club membership.

Miss Current and her home agents have at least 12,000 women now who aid the home agents as project leaders. One woman may have charge of all the garden work in her club while another is the nutrition leader in an adjoining club. These project leaders are holding at least four of the 12 monthly club meetings scheduled for the year, which means that the home agent can greatly enlarge her work. The women say that 32,488 farm families were reached for the first time in home demonstration work this past year.

It is interesting to note that there is now a home agent in each county of the state. In these counties are 1,523 organized clubs with an active membership of 37,579 women. However, it is not the main purpose of home demonstration work to reach only these women but to build the entire program around the farm family as a unit. Much of the work being done now is not aimed at the farm woman alone but at her whole family and with emphasis on the boy and girl.

This is why I know that much of the agricultural progress being made in North Carolina is based on the work being done by these women. Because they need food for canning, food must be produced on the farm; because the women study better nutrition, more different kinds of foods must be grown; because they study food conservation, storage closets must be built; and because they insist on better family health, milk and butter and other protective food products are added. I would not insist that the farming progress we are making is because of these women, but they are certainly their influence is being felt.

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