By Janet Galligani Casey

Modernity and urbanity have lengthy been thought of jointly maintaining forces in early twentieth-century the United States. yet has the dominance of the city imaginary obscured the significance of the agricultural? How have ladies, specifically, appropriated discourses and photographs of rurality to interrogate the issues of modernity? and the way have they imbued the rural-traditionally considered as a locus for conservatism-with a revolutionary political valence?Touching on such varied topics as eugenics, reproductive rights, advertisements, the economic system of literary prizes, and the function of the digicam, a brand new Heartland demonstrates the significance of rurality to the ingenious building of modernism/modernity; it additionally asserts that ladies, as items of scrutiny in addition to brokers of critique, had a distinct stake in that relation. Casey lines the beliefs informing America's notion of the agricultural throughout a large box of representational domain names, together with social thought, periodical literature, cultural feedback, images, and, so much specially, women's rural fiction ("low" in addition to "high"). Her argument is trained by means of archival study, so much crucially via a cautious research of The Farmer's spouse, the one nationally disbursed farm magazine for ladies and a bit recognized repository of rural American attitudes. via this huge scope, a brand new Heartland articulates another mode of modernism through hard orthodox rules approximately gender and geography in twentieth-century the USA.

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Additional resources for A New Heartland: Women, Modernity, and the Agrarian Ideal in America

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51 This is one way in which broad assumptions about the positive effects of urban-styled “progress” failed to account for the unique social patterns inherent to farming and were especially unreflective in relation to women. It also reveals an arena, only recently addressed by rural historians, in which farm women rejected official attempts to co-opt their identities and images. Furthermore, even when farm women did not necessarily seek such an integration of housework and field work, they could still seize upon their labor realities as evidence of their equality with men and sometimes positioned themselves in interesting ways within the period’s discourses about women, work, and money.

It was she, rather than the farmer, who evidenced the tensions between the rural and the modern most richly and provocatively. THE FARM WOMAN AND MODERNITY Rita Felski has pointed out the prominence of certain female figures—the prostitute, the actress, the mechanical woman—as cultural emblems of modernity’s “ambivalent responses to capitalism and technology” and to shifting notions of gender. 40 While the farm woman, often stereotyped as a victimized drudge or a glorified earth mother, seemed unexciting in contrast, she, too, was a figure upon whom important modern anxieties converged.

As an uplift program, the Country Life Movement was largely about class; as an effort to reassert the value of farming in Jeffersonian terms, it was nationalistic and constituted, as we shall see, a validation of whiteness. But gender was not, implicitly or explicitly, a salient category of analysis, and women qua women were given relatively little consideration. As Deborah Fink argues, one oddity of the rural “crisis” to which the Country Life Movement responded was that it served “to deepen the agrarian myth rather than to prompt a rethinking of it.

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