Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Rural Women Filling Gap On Farms, 1944

“Virginia Homemakers Do Work on Farms” by Catherine P. DeShazo, from the October 1944 issue of The Southern Planter

“I’m doing work I never thought I would do!  I am helping with the dairy.”

“I helped harvest the small grain, actually ran the combine.”

“I have learned to run the tractor.”

“I take care of all the chickens and do all the family laundry.”

These were just a few statements heard at the recent meeting of the Virginia Federation of Home Demonstration Clubs held at Blacksburg. And not just one woman made such statements. Every woman at the meeting boasted of her increased ability to do new types of work, work that women have not been doing, work that is most essential to winning the war and winning the peace.

I said boasted and I meant it. A few years back the rural women who were forced by financial circumstances to do physical labor were very hesitant about admitting it. Today, when it has become a matter of patriotism, every rural woman is proud to take her part as a home front soldier. She wants the satisfaction of knowing that her boy, or her husband, comes home she will be able to meet him as soldier to soldier. She knows that he has not been a slacker and she is determined not to have been one herself.

There are over 27,000 women in this army of Home Demonstration Club members in Virginia, the largest woman’s organization in the State. It can be safely said that there is not a member of the organization who has not taken on additional war work. War work here means, first and foremost, production of food or conservation of food. There is nothing more essential to the war effort than food. There is no more patriotic “Commando Mary” than the Home Demonstration Club member.

Not only is the woman herself assuming the farm work, but all the members of her family are helping. One lady told, in a panel discussion, that she had to learn to operate the milking machines and attend to the work in the dairy house. The day that her two daughters arrived from college for the vacation they had to go to the barns and replace two men who went into service the preceding day.
Another member, one of the district presidents, told how she had been forced to help save the wheat and oat crop. She had ridden the combine. Then she had helped haul the grain to the barns. When you looked at that charming woman and saw the lovely complexion, groomed hands, well kept hair and splendid figure you were bound to feel a real pride in the Virginia rural woman. It makes you think back to the tragic days after the War Between the States when Virginia women met the challenge of their time nobly. Our women of today are no less great.

So far, I have mentioned farm work only. But our women do not stop at this, although it would seem to be a full time job. They can do many things at once. They are active in their church work. They are working with the schools, the welfare organizations, and all of the additional war efforts. Every district in the State reported active participation in the War Bond drives, Red Cross work, salvage, and, where needed, USO work.

I know of no finer example of what the Home Demonstration Club women do than the work that the newly elected Fifth District President is doing. Her son is serving in the Navy. She was chairman for the 1944 Red Cross Drive for her district. She sews regularly for the Red Cross. She is a volunteer OPA worker. She was in charge of the Community Fund Drive in Tuckaho District. She is a member of the “Order of Railway Conduction.” She was instrumental in organizing a Home Demonstration Club in her community. She is president of the Henrico County Home Demonstration Committee. She is treasurer of the Woman’s Auxiliary in the church to which she belongs. She is Mrs. R.D. Phillips, a perfect example of our fighting army of Home Demonstration Women.

Not only are these women meeting the needs of the day, but also preparing for the future. In the post-war planting greatest emphasis is being placed on health education. It is the dream of this organization that the day will come when all classes of people will be able to have adequate medical attention regardless of financial handicaps. The Federation has already set up a health loan fund which is available to any Home Demonstration woman who needs medical care, but lacks funds. Many of the counties have featured home nursing classes, first aid courses, etc. Health is one of the most serious problems of rural women. One woman reported that the only physician in her county was 60 miles from some o fher patients, and there is not a registered nurse in this county.

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