Project Title

Farms, Fields, and Fairs: Midwestern Women's American Civil War Experiences Depicted in the Agricultural Press

Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - History & Philosophy

Faculty Sponsor Name

Dr. Albert Way

Abstract (300 words maximum)

Between the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War, American agriculture developed through the “agricultural improvement” movement, which featured the beginning of agricultural societies, fairs, and journals in American society along with agricultural innovations. While agricultural improvement was primarily directed at a male audience, women also took part in and benefited from it. From the onset of the Civil War, Northerners, particularly those in the Midwest, faced new agricultural challenges and shifts in agricultural endeavors to compensate for the men lost to the battlefields and the trade routes severed with the South. However, the Civil War’s impact on women’s roles in the North has not been extensively covered, especially those of rural women involved in agricultural activities. Agricultural and rural historians, such as R. Douglas Hurt and Ginette Aley, have noted this gap in Civil War research. Prior research on rural women during the Civil War has often utilized correspondence between husbands and wives as their primary sources. However, access to complete spousal correspondence is rare. This study argues that agricultural journals allow the opportunity to analyze the range of roles played by Midwestern women, especially in agricultural pursuits, during the Civil War. Based on an exploration of Midwestern agricultural journals (the Prairie Farmer, the Wisconsin Farmer, and the Illinois Farmer) in the years 1855-1865, this study showcases Midwestern women in agriculture and agricultural improvement prior to the Civil War and their involvement in war-time agriculture, specifically highlighting women’s content in these journals as the war raged on.

Disciplines

Cultural History | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Military History | Social History | United States History | Women's History

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

How will this be presented?

Yes, synchronously via Teams

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Farms, Fields, and Fairs: Midwestern Women's American Civil War Experiences Depicted in the Agricultural Press

Between the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War, American agriculture developed through the “agricultural improvement” movement, which featured the beginning of agricultural societies, fairs, and journals in American society along with agricultural innovations. While agricultural improvement was primarily directed at a male audience, women also took part in and benefited from it. From the onset of the Civil War, Northerners, particularly those in the Midwest, faced new agricultural challenges and shifts in agricultural endeavors to compensate for the men lost to the battlefields and the trade routes severed with the South. However, the Civil War’s impact on women’s roles in the North has not been extensively covered, especially those of rural women involved in agricultural activities. Agricultural and rural historians, such as R. Douglas Hurt and Ginette Aley, have noted this gap in Civil War research. Prior research on rural women during the Civil War has often utilized correspondence between husbands and wives as their primary sources. However, access to complete spousal correspondence is rare. This study argues that agricultural journals allow the opportunity to analyze the range of roles played by Midwestern women, especially in agricultural pursuits, during the Civil War. Based on an exploration of Midwestern agricultural journals (the Prairie Farmer, the Wisconsin Farmer, and the Illinois Farmer) in the years 1855-1865, this study showcases Midwestern women in agriculture and agricultural improvement prior to the Civil War and their involvement in war-time agriculture, specifically highlighting women’s content in these journals as the war raged on.

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