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(A copyrighted publication of West Virginia Archives and History)

Volume 49 "Women's Work, Never Done": West Virginia Farm Women, 1880s-1920s

By Shirley C. Eagan

Volume 49 (1990), pp. 21-36

As West Virginia was one of the most rural states in the nation, agriculture played a major role in the local and statewide economy until the mid-twentieth century. Primarily, farming in West Virginia during this period was a family affair, involving a segregation of labor among the various family members. A successful farm operation required women to assume numerous roles ranging from full partner to manual laborer and performer of the most menial tasks. The evolution of women's roles on the farm, the everyday work, and the technological advances that impacted women's lives are the subjects of this essay, which attempts to develop a portrait of a woman's work, surroundings, feelings, and her typical day on West Virginia farms in the 1880s and 1920s.

Farms of the 1880s were predominately independent or subsistent entities where everything needed by the family was raised or manufactured. An examination of three 1880s diaries documents the self-sufficiency and frugality of West Virginia farm women. Extended family and close neighbors provided the bulk of the basic needs of the farm family. Because cash was not readily available on the subsistence farm, barter was an important element of the agricultural economy.

By the 1920s, subsistence production remained the center of the farm operation, but some surplus was produced to be sold for extra income. For the key roles women played in the overall farming operation of this period, nine Extension Farm Bureau Women's Club members' work sheets were analyzed. These farm women of the late 1920s and 1930s described themselves as arbiters of the health and happiness of the family and as partners in their husbands' success. Often, these farm women supplemented the family income through the sale of eggs and produce, and yet found time to participate in a wide variety of community activities.

Overall, West Virginia farm women played and important role in the production of goods and services for their families. Sources in this article tend to show an atypical side to farm women's lives. The women who wrote diaries, completed work sheets, and wrote the essays used in this work were probably better educated, more self-confident, and more assured of the importance of their role as a partner in the farm operation. But both the drudgery and importance of women's work on the farm is apparent in the sources.

During the first decades of statehood, West Virginia remained a rural, agricultural state. The population continued to grow in 1880 West Virginia residents totaled 618,457, a 39.9 percent increase over the 1870 census. More than 91 percent (564,407) of the population resided in rural areas, mostly on farms. By 1890, the state's inhabitants totaled 762,794, with 89.3 percent living in rural areas. Of the 76,157 farm families in West Virginia in 1890, 96.6 percent were classified as native white, 2.3 percent were foreign-born white, and 1.1 percent were black.1

The changes experienced by farm families between the 1880s and the 1920s were extensive, but much of the work was surprisingly similar. Several diaries of the 1880s provide a direct and immediate look at the daily experiences and the roles of the farm family during the decade. In one diary, Rebecca Tabb reported the events of her family in Jefferson County. Sarah Morgan McKown outlined over thirty years of her family's experiences on the farm in Berkeley County in her diaries. A third diary, written by John T. Smith of Preston County, reveals farming operations over a three- year period.

The Elliott Tabb Family owned a farm located in the Middleway District of Jefferson County.2 The Tabb family's farm contained 195 acres, of which 105 acres were cultivated, sixty-five acres were permanent meadows, orchards or pastures, and twenty-five acres remained woodland or forest. In 1880, the total farmstead, including farm land, fences buildings, equipment and livestock, was valued at $2,431. In comparison to the average Jefferson County farm, the Tabb farm was about equal in size but valued at over $5,000 less. Although Mr. Tabb later bought and sold cattle for a livelihood in 1880 he stocked the farm with horses, milk cows, sheep, pigs and poultry and raised corn, oats, wheat and potatoes.3

The farmhouse was quite large with three kitchen areas, a "farm room," lower room, dining room, sitting room, at least three bedrooms, a pantry, a passage with a closet, a hall, a garret, and a loft. There was also a porch according to Rebecca Tabb's diary description.4

Rebecca Tabb was one of eight children, four daughters and four sons. Sister Fan was a teacher, Virginia was in school, and Rebecca and Sade were at home. Women's work in this family revolved around the traditional concept of housekeeping. For example, the mother or one of the daughters at home regularly cleaned the "far room", the lower room, diningroom and sitting room. Rebecca and Sade appeared to do most of the chores in the home. When school was out, Fan and Virginia helped in this work. Rebecca noted that either individually or with one of her sisters she worked at the following household tasks: cleaning and straightening the house, washing clothes and blankets, ironing, sewing shirts and dresses and cooking which included baking cakes and salt-rising bread and making taffy. Apparently, the family did not schedule regular daily or weekly tasks, but undertook jobs when necessary.

The household tasks required a great deal of time, but the large number of women in the home enabled completion of some jobs by two or three people working together on the same tasks, such as ironing and cleaning. Sometimes household tasks continued for two or three days, such as washing done on one day and the clothes hung out to dry a day or two later. To assist with the household work, the family owned a sewing machine and a washing machine.

The Tabb women also participated in seasonal tasks. Family members picked berries, helped with threshing season in July, assisted in canning cherries, plums, peaches, tomato juice, and corn, made preserves, calf's-foot jelly and pickles. In the fall, they "did up" the butchering by making sausage pudding, lard, and mincemeat. Mrs. Tabb and Sade quilted comforts and sometimes went to friends' homes to quilt.

The Tabb family hired help for work around the farm, but the only household chore performed by someone other than a family member was the washing, particularly in the winter. Laborers were mostly hired for specialized work, such as laying the barn foundation, building a hen house, and constructing a roof on the house over the diningroom. Money did not appear to be a serious problem for the household. Mr. Tabb and a son regularly attended sales and purchased livestock and sometimes other items. They had an apple orchard which provided a cash crop.

Rebecca Tabb recorded some of the leisure activities her family enjoyed. Some family members read, and a younger brother and sister regularly attended meetings of a "Cooking Club," which met to exchange recipes and try new dishes.5

Some family members went to church on Sundays, but they often attended different churches. Frequent visits were made to neighbors and relatives, as well as trips to town. In one entry, Rebecca wrote of traveling by train to Oakland, Maryland to visit relatives for a two-week vacation. Younger family members attended parties, like a beanbag party and a phantom party, especially during the holiday season.

A second diarist, Sarah Morgan McKown, describes farm life in Berkeley County. The F. Samuel McKown farm of approximately 132 acres was located in the Gerardstown District and contained eighty-two acres of tillable land, twenty-five acres of permanent meadows, pastures and orchards, and twenty-five acres of woodland or forest. The average size of a Berkeley County farm was 165 acres with an average value of over $4,300. While the McKown farm was smaller than the average Berkeley County farm, the value of the property was more than double the average.6

The McKown home was smaller than the Tabb home. It had a garret, at least two bedrooms, the master bedroom and one where a sone and his wife slept, another large room upstairs, a sitting room, and a kitchen with a hearth. Sarah McKown, daughter-in-law Marcie, or hired help cleaned and annually whitewashed most of the rooms. Some rooms had carpeting. The household consisted of the senior McKowns (Mrs. McKown was about seventy in 1888), one son and his wife. Two other children and their families lived nearby and one daughter lived in Kansas.7

The McKown women did most of their work in the home with few references to outdoor tasks recorded in the diaries. Certain chores like washing, ironing, cleaning and sewing were usually done weekly. Sarah baked and churned frequently. Among the unusual homemaking chores were browning or roasting coffee, making yeast, and boiling hominy.

Grains for cornmeal and flour were raised on the farm. The farm produced its own meat and the family regularly butchered, hung meat, and salted it. Sarah wrote of preserving yellow tomatoes, drying corn, making peach butter, and burying cabbage and turnips in the root cellar. Purchased food items included coffee, fish, sugar, lemon and nutmeg.

Money appeared to be in short supply in the McKown family. The diaries' early entries tell of selling eggs and butter. The backs of some of the diaries record the amount of butter and eggs sold during a particular year. Although the income from these sales was not great, the money helped to make life easier for the family. Produce and items not available on the farm were often acquired by bartering or trading one item for another. For example, Sarah wrote that she sometimes paid to have her weekly washing done in 1869 with cornmeal, vegetables, lard, etc., if she did not have the fifty cents. In 1888, she noted that a son had traded cornmeal for sugar at the local store.

Sarah's diaries record that the McKowns visited with their neighbors, frequently staying until "bedtime." Sarah often went into town to visit with relatives.

The third diary, written by John T. Smith between 1881 and 1886, reveals the life of a Preston County farm couple in their later years. Although written by a man, the diary offers glimpses of women's work and a general portrait of life on the farm. Typical Preston County farms averaged 144 acres valued at over $1,400. The Smith's farm consisted of forty-three cultivated acres, forty-three acres of permanent pasture, twenty acres of woodland or forest, and twenty acres not allocated for production, for a total of 136 acres. The estimated property value was $900. During 1879, the Smiths produced two hundred pounds of butter and thirty pounds of honey. Apparently, the sale of livestock was the primary source of income as few crops were grown on the farm at the time.8

John T. and Nancy Smith were in their seventies. John wrote of farm activities in a diary that spans about four years. Several of their children lived nearby and maintained the farm, with Mr. Smith's assistance. Mr. Smith wrote of "ploughing," seeding, harvesting, threshing, cutting logs, and butchering.9

Although Mr. Smith does not mention many of Mrs. Smith's routine chores, the making of fabric appeared to be an important part of the household, one in which he took great pride. He reported taking eighteen and half pounds of wood to be carded and noted that "Mother" had separated the flax fibers and began spinning. In the fall of 1886, using a six-frame loom, Mrs. Smith has woven forty- six yards of fabric, besides doing many other thins and "taking care of the fruit."

Cash income came mainly from the sale of livestock and firewood supplemented by Mr. Smith's part-time cobbler work. Bartering goods and services alleviated problems associated with a lack of cash. For example, Mr. Smith traded a bat of wool and $4 for a wagon, harrow and hayrake, which he valued at $135. In another transaction, he received six bushels of wheat and six of buckwheat, valued at $12 in exchange for an interest in a sewing machine; ten and a half pounds of butter were traded for a pair of shoes. The Smiths ordered seeds, books, religious tracts and magazines, like The Rural Farm Journal and The Fireside at Home through the mail. At one point he wrote with a sense of accomplishment of the purchase of thirty-seven volumes of Friends Review for $2.

The family frequently visited with their neighbors and family members. Sometimes on or two day journeys were made to Terra Alta or to Maryland by Mr. Smith or other family members.

From the 1880s to the 1920s, industrialization gradually transformed the nation. West Virginia was no exception to this as the coal industry began to impact on the state's economy. Many women sought jobs in factories, retail and service businesses of the growing cities and towns while others were employed in what were considered to be traditional women's jobs of teaching and nursing. Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution granted women the right to vote. The automobile became the transportation of choice and electricity found its way to numerous homes. Modern appliances and conveniences and improved communication changed the nation. Farm life and women's work were transformed by many of these events, but much of the work remained the same.

In West Virginia, agriculture underwent many changes during this time as well. The number of farms increased between 1900 and 1910 from 92,874 to 96,685, but began to decline during the next decade, dropping to 87,289 in 1920 and to 82,841 in 1930. The average farm size deceased from 114.7 acres in 1900 to 106.5 acres in 1930. Much of the decline in farming can be attributed to the lure of industrial jobs with the promise of a steady wage, shorter hours and less demanding work. Increased land price speculation and the difficulty of obtaining affordable capital necessary for improved farm equipment also were critical factors in the decline.10

In spite of the numerous forces at work, the subsistence farm remained an important segment of the state's economy and women continued as major contributors to farm production. In some cases, the husband took a job with a coal or timber company to provide cash to supplement the farm income. This placed much of the farm's day-to-day production upon the wife and the family.

In 1924, Mary Meek Atkeson in The Woman on the Farm analyzed letters written by farm women to the Department of Agriculture in 1915 and 1924. In the 1915 letters, farm women complained of the hard work imposed upon them and the lack of opportunity for rest or relaxation. Often, these women blamed the man of the family for this condition because they believed that the farm wife was "His" responsibility. By 1924, farm women's letters told a different story. Women wrote that if overworked, it was the woman's fault. They noted that even when conditions are at their worse, "it is the grim necessity of poverty, community conditions or economic conditions and not the man who is to blame." Atkeson attributes this change to the improved education women received through reading and schooling.11

In the 1926 General Federation of Women's Clubs' (GFWC) survey of farm homes in West Virginia, statistics gathered from 899 West Virginia farms established an average size of 94 acres. Over 90 percent were classified as general farms and 91 percent of the families were home owners. Nearly 12 percent of the households employed at least one person to work on the farm and 28 percent noted they fed a threshing crew annually. Over 53 percent had no water at the house, nearly 81 percent disposed of sewage through a privy, 84 percent had no electric power and nearly 62 percent were heating their homes by fireplaces.12

The survey reveals that over 39 percent of the farm homes had stationary kitchen sinks with running water, 39.5 percent cooked with gas, and 37.5 percent cooked with coal. The purchase of major appliances was slow because most families lacked electricity or power to operate water systems in the farm home and appliances were too costly. Electricity was not prevalent in a majority of farm homes until the late 1940s.13

The kitchen was the center of the farm woman's work and usually the first room that a woman wanted to upgrade. By 1926, there was a trend toward easing the chores of the farm wife through kitchen improvements. During the 1920s, extension home economists developed a work sheet for farm women throughout the state and nation to rate their kitchens on improvements needed. Homemakers scored various parts of their kitchens including heights of the kitchen tasks; and organization of the kitchen by work centers. A Department of Agriculture bulletin of 1926 gave this advice: "Group all equipment large and small into compact work centers for preparation of raw food, cooking, serving, clearing away, and dish washing and any other activities done regularly in the kitchen."14

Nine accounts of West Virginia Farm Bureau Club members completed as part of a national Master Farm Homemaker Awards program provide detailed insight into the roles and lives of a select group of West Virginia farm women in the late 1920s-early 1930s. Farmer's Wife, a national farm women's magazine, sponsored the Master Farm Homemaker Program in cooperation with the Agriculture Extension Service. After being nominated by five neighbors to participate in the awards program, the homemaker received a work sheet to complete and return to the state extension office. The work booklet asked many questions regarding the farmstead, home management, health records and living habits of the family, recreation, social development and family relationships, and community work. The work sheets were scored and five women were chosen each year to be West Virginia's Master Farm Homemakers. Six of the nine farm women in this article later won this coveted award and the records of each provide a view of their lives and times.15

These nine Farm Bureau members lived in different sections of West Virginia on farms ranging in size from ninety-four to nine acres. Two were dairy farms, two had large orchards and five were general farms. Of the nine homemakers, six did not complete high school and three attended one of the state's normal schools for one year or less. Four of the women taught school before they were married.16

Through the work sheets, the farm woman reveals much about herself and her style of living.

Eight of the farm houses described in the Master Farm Homemaker work sheets were two-story homes. They ranged from five-to-ten rooms, including kitchen, livingroom, diningroom, and from two to five bedrooms. Two contained farm offices, two had libraries, one had a den, one a parlor and two had sewing rooms. All but two had bathrooms and all had at least one porch and some had two, one of which was enclosed.17

In their description of their kitchens, some of the work sheet authors gave insights into kitchen improvements for their homes. Mrs. Bertha Post of Harrison County used gas for cooking and lighting and had running water in the kitchen. She had an ice box and kept perishable food in it and in the cellar. Recent kitchen improvements included the installation of a sink with a double drain board and new windows. Further plans called for removal of the old chimney and built-in cupboard, to be replaced by a new cabinet which would increase work space and make the kitchen more efficient.18

Mrs. Annie Fulton of Morgan County had electricity and an electric refrigerator. She hoped to obtain an electric washing machine and vacuum cleaner. She continued to cook with wood. Future plans for the kitchen included a new sink and drain board at a convenient height, screening a living porch and installing a door between it and the diningroom.19

Mrs. Daisy Van Metre of Berkeley County had electricity and heated her house with a furnace. She cooked with wood but had an electric refrigerator and washing machine and looked forward to purchasing some small appliances such as a fan or mixer.20

Mrs. India Hogue of Ritchie County, an area rich in natural gas, used it for lighting and cooking. She did not have running water but drew water from a well located on the "well porch." She used a cellar to store perishable produce. Laundry was done on a washboard and hand wringer and she continued to use a flat iron for ironing. If extra money were available, she wrote she would paint her kitchen, put a window over her sink and pipe water into the kitchen.21

The use of natural gas and electricity helped release many women from some of the difficult tasks of managing a home. Mrs. Fannie Bibbee of Wood County noted, "If I had electricity, I would have everything I need and want in this world. My husband would not let me go in debt for it when we built."22

The most thought and money were expended for equipment needed for daily tasks, such as preparing meals, dishwashing, cleaning and doing the weekly laundry.23

The farm women described in the Master Farm Homemaker records were efficient home managers. Most reported time to rest, read, and visit sometime within each week. Some women outlined a weekly schedule: wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday, rest on Thursday, clean on Friday, bake and prepare food on Saturday, and worship on Sunday. Some homemakers rearranged the schedule to reflect their own household needs with the greatest variation on Wednesdays and Thursdays.24

All the homemakers reported seasonal activities which required extra time and planning. They worked at raising chickens, canning, gardening, butchering, picking apples, making apple butter and soap, house cleaning in spring and fall, and helping with special farming activities such as threshing, haying and filling the silo. Most of the farm women mentioned working in the garden and raising flowers as part of their tasks.25

Children were important contributors to the farm's production. Daughters' tasks were cooking, cleaning and laundry and sons helped with the outdoor farm work and maintained the supply of wood or coal.26

The GFWC survey of 899 farm homes reported 97 percent had sewing machines which were used mostly for household linens, such as sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, housedresses, aprons and nightwear. The master farm homemaker work sheets revealed that the farm women purchased many of their clothes ready-made because they could get better styles, often at less expense.27

Throughout this period, the farm couple were usually seen as equal partners in business, with the husband directing the farm operations and the wife managing the home. Good homemaking alone did not make a happy family if the farm was run down. If farm products were poorly marketed, the family experienced the inefficiency and the resulting pinch of poverty.28

In Women on the Farm, Mary Meek Atkeson advised a balance between expenditures for the farm and home. She cautioned that the happiness of the farm might be jeopardized if money was used only to expand the farm operations. She encouraged farm women to resist the temptation to reinvest every cent into the farm operation.29

An extension circular on "Low Income Farms in West Virginia" reported in 1929 that forty-eight thousand (58 percent) farm families had on the average $68 in cash for living expenses. Based on an average gross income of about $600, $360 was expended on food and fuel and $172 was spent for feed, seed, and hired labor. After deducting the cost of production of the farm crops, only $68 remained to buy clothing, food, household supplies, books, pay doctor bills and provide for the other needs of the family. Forty-two percent of the farmers earned an average gross income of $1,665 per farm, which provided these families a fairly good living from the farm.30

The nine families represented in these work sheets preserved many fruits, vegetables and meats grown on their farm. They averaged 200-400 quarts of preserved vegetables, fruit, and meats; made jams and jellies; pickled cucumbers and kraut; cured meat; dried apples, peaches, corn, and beans; stored turnips, beets, onions, apples, parsnips, carrots, cabbage and kale, pumpkin and potatoes; and buried celery. Sample menus listed for both summer and winter reflect a good variety of meats, vegetables and fruits in the diets of farm families.31

For many farm families, the major source of cash income other than crop or livestock sales were from poultry, milk cows, gardens and fruit trees. These "extra crops" were usually cared for and maintained by the women. Without the extra income from the sale of these products, many farm families would not have survived slumps in farm prices, droughts or other farming hazards.32 Mrs. Bertha Nay of Lewis County reported an income of $300 from the sale of eggs and poultry for stock chickens. Mrs. Bertha Post of Harrison County recorded earnings from $600 to $700 per year by raising chickens and making butter. Mrs. Van Metre marketed two-thousand dozen eggs and sold surplus hens to earn nearly $500. Mrs. Rella Darnall of Lewis County earned $1,000 per year by selling butter, cottage cheese and garden produce. Mrs. Elizabeth Lang's chicken and turkey flocks provided the Harrison countian an annual income of $500. Mrs. Houge sold poultry, butter, cheese and garden produce, earning $105 annually. Mrs. Fulton made more than $300 per year by selling eggs for brood chicks and supervising the packing of apples and peaches from their orchard. Mrs. Bibbee's income from the sale of eggs, vegetables, sausage, cottage cheese and flowers through the Parkersburg Home Industries Shop was over $200 per year. These farm women reported that decisions regarding how to spend the family income were made by the adults in the family and sometimes by the entire family.33

Mrs. Margaret McClung of Greenbrier County wrote that she alone owned and managed a purebred dairy herd. Her husband managed some timber and coal lands which were not part of the farm acreage. She noted that through her work, milk, cream and butter were sold. Additional income came from the sale of hogs, poultry and eggs, and garden produce. The farm's gross income was about $6000 per year, but much of this went into overhead. She took credit and responsibility for most of the decisions for use of the farm income.34

Following the First World War, families of the 1920s and early 1930s wanted to keep up-to-date on things that were happening, not only in their communities but throughout the world. By 1926, among the equipment owned by West Virginia farm families, 66.4 percent had telephones and 11.8 percent had radios. Farm families represented in the Master Farm Homemaker program appeared to be a more affluent sample. All nine families had telephones and five had radios. Each family received a daily newspaper and all but one received at least one weekly paper.35

In addition, these family subscribed to several magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies Home Journal, Woman's Home Companion, McCalls, Farmer's Wife, American West Virginia Farm News, Woman's Journal, Country Home, Needlecraft, People's Popular Monthly, and Farm Life.36

Nearly 69 percent of the farm families surveyed in 1926 had an automobile and all completing the Master Homemaker records owned one. However, only three of the farm women could drive and one indicated she was learning.37

Seven of the nine farm women indicated they vacationed yearly. Most vacationed with other members of the family, but there were occasions when they got away by themselves. Three of the farm women reported that they attended the Farm Women's Camp at Jackson's Mill as part of their vacation. These camps, sponsored by the West Virginia Extension Service, offered opportunities for the women to improve their homemaking and leadership skills. Two families had attended Farm and Home Week activities sponsored by the extension service and the West Virginia University College of Agriculture.38

All the farm women were active in their communities and all reported voting in the last national and state elections. They were active in a church and served on church committees. They worked to improve local schools, their community and recreation facilities. They participated in several organizations besides the Farm Women's Bureau, such as Order of Eastern Star, parent-teachers association, hospital auxiliary, local political groups and the Women's Christian Temperance Union.39

Farm women of the early 1930s overcame hardships during their lifetimes, such as lack of money and bad crops, and worked hard with their husbands to keep the farms and families going. One homemaker, recalling the destruction of their store business in 1917 and their recent purchase of some land noted they "had good neighbors, a host of friends and instead of getting discouraged we started all over again."40

Interestingly, none of these women mentioned the stock market crash of 1929 or the ensuing depression in their work sheets.

The women's responses reflect the pride in being farm women. Mrs. Van Metre's quote mirrors many of the other farm women's written and unwritten feelings, "I'm glad I'm privileged to be a Farmer's Wife. I think it is a very great honor and hope to spend my last days on the farm."41

The life of the West Virginia farm woman proved the old adage, "A man can work from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done." As West Virginia moved from a predominately rural agricultural economy of the late 1800s into the industrial age of the 1920s, the farm woman was often the backbone of the farm family.

The farm families depicted in this article may not be typical of all farm families in West Virginia or throughout the nation. By taking the time to record their thoughts and feelings, the authors set themselves apart as different from those who did not have the time, inclination or skill to record the events of their lives. The writings of these farm women tended to outline events of importance to them. The diaries of the 1880s provided a private, direct and immediate look at the daily lives of the three authors and the work sheets of the 1920s provided a more self-conscious look at the life of each farm woman because she knew her work sheet was going to be read by others.

The farm woman played many roles in the agricultural movement in West Virginia. She was a helpmate to her husband and managed the home. The farm woman assisted in managing the available resources for the farmstead, helped expand available resources into products needed by the family, and nurtured the development of their children into productive citizens. Many times she was willing to step in and assist in the earning of income to meet the needs of the farm family at various stages in their life.

Woven into every story here and those not written is the farm woman's contribution to the American Farmer's success:

I am the keeper of the farm home. I provide the physical and mental food for our children's growth, smooth out their faults and problems, keep everybody healthy, happy. Strong and encouraged. I manage evenly an uneven load of work.

I am the purchasing agent - I buy for the house and family, often for the farm; I keep books and pay the bills. More than is usually realized, I hold the balance of power in deciding what we need and what we shall postpone or do without this decides how we live.

I am the steward of neighborliness, beauty, truth, and spirit that produce strong character for the world's work.

The American farmer and I, his wife have done these things.42


Shirley C. Eagan is an Extension Specialist - Program Development and Extension Professor of the West Virginia University Extension Service. She earned the Ed.D. degree from West Virginia University.


1. US Bureau of the Census, Eighteenth Census of the United States, 1960 - West Virginia (Washington: GPO, 1963), 50-57; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, Population Bulletin on Families (Washington: GPO, 1932), 5.

2. Virginia Tabb, interview with author, Kearneysville, WV, 13 June 1989. Her husband Lyle is a direct descendant of Elliot Tabb.

3. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Tenth Census of the United States, 1880, Agriculture and Manufacturing Census Records (Washington: GPO, 1883), Jefferson County, Middleway District, 8 June 1880, 4; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Tenth Census of the United States 1880, vol. 3, Agriculture (Washington: GPO, 1883), 98. The average value was calculated from ibid., 139. Tabb interview, 13 June 1989.

4. Rebecca K. Tabb, Diary 1888-90, possession of Tabb family. Miss Tabb was born in 1867 in Berkeley County and never married. In later years, she taught school, was a housemother at the school for the deaf and blind in Romney, ran a boarding house, and finally returned to the farm where she died in 1946; Tabb interview, 13 June 1989.

5. Tabb interview, 13 June 1989.

6. Agriculture and Manufacturing Census, 1880, Berkeley County, Gerardstown District, 26 June 1880, 21; Tenth Census, 1880, vol. 3, Agriculture, 98. The average value was calculated from ibid, 139.

7. Sarah Morgan McKown, Diaries 1860-99, Microfilm Collection 718, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV. McKown, a Berkeley County farm woman, was born 13 June 1818 and married 14 April 1842.

8. Agriculture and Manufacturing Census, 1880, Preston County, Pleasant District, 9 June 1880, 9; Tenth Census, 1880, vol. 3, Agriculture, 98. The average value was calculated from ibid., 139.

9. John T. Smith, Diary, 28 December 1881-83, and 1886, possession of Westbrook family, Kingwood, WV.

10. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, West Virginia (Washington: GPO, 1925), 58; Mary E. Templeton, Statistical Chartbook of West Virginia Agriculture (Morgantown: West Virginia University Agricultural Experiment Station, 1967), 1.

11. Mary Meek Atkeson, The Woman on the Farm (New York: The Century Company, 1924, 124-25.

12. Letter from Mary Sherman, per Associate Director, Home Survey, to Mr. Nat T. Frame, Director, Agricultural Extension, 14 February 1927 regarding findings of a 1926 Farm Home Equipment Survey sponsored by the General Federation of Women's Clubs (Washington: Home Survey Office, 1926). Enclosures with the letter include eleven tables that describe survey findings for Wet Virginia, possession of the West Virginia University Extension Service, Morgantown, WV. Data from this survey hereafter cited as GFWC Survey.

13. 50 Years of Progress: A History of the Farm and Home Electrification Council in West Virginia (Hagerstown, MD: Potomac Edison Co., 1974), 1.

14. After A Hundred Years: The Yearbook of Agriculture 1962 (Washington: GPO, 1963), 661; "And Now the Farm Women's Clubs Score Their Kitchens," West Virginia Farm Bureau News, 2 (15 June 1923): 4.

15. The first Master Farm Homemaker awards were presented to five West Virginia women during Farmer's Week in Jan. 1928; "Largest Delegation in History Attended Farmer' Week," West Virginia Farm Bureau News, 6 (February 1928): 14. The Master Farm Homemaker Program lasted until 1931 when it was halted due to the Depression. West Virginia independently recognized two women in 1938 and one in 1939; Gertrude Humphreys, Adventures in Good Living (Parsons, WV: McClain Printing Co., 1972), 106.

The Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheet was published by The Farmer's Wife, St. Paul, MN (Webb Publishing Co., 1928). The 48 page booklett had a series of questions that the farm woman answered regarding her family and her role in farm life. The nine Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets cited in this paper are in possession of the West Virginia University Extension Service, Morgantown, WV, and were completed by the following farm women: Fannie Roush Bibbee, Walker (Wood County, 1930. Rella Swisher Darnall, Weston (Lewis County), 1928. Annie Tucker Fulton, Cherry Run (Morgan County), 1928. India Broadwater Hogue, Pennsboro (Ritchie County), ca. 1930. Elizabeth Celia Lang, Bridgeport (Harrison County), ca. 1930. Margaret Callison McClung, Rupert (Greenbrier County), 1928. Bertha Hall Nay, Jane Lew (Lewis County), ca. 1930. Bertha Sommerville Post, Lost Creek (Harrison County), 1929. Daisy Butler Van Metre, Kearneysville (Berkeley County), 1930.

16. Data complied from the nine "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets," 6-7.

17. Ibid., 4-5.

18. Post, "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheet," 8-15.

19. Fulton, "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheet," 8-15.

20. Van Metre, "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheet," 8-15.

21. Hogue, "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheet," 8-15.

22. Bibbee, "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheet," 15.

23. Atkeson, Woman on the Farm, 97.

24. Houge, Fulton, and McClung, "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheet," 18.

25. Data compiled from the nine "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets," 19.

26. Ibid., 20.

27. GFWC Survey, Table IX; Data from "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets," 20-21.

28. Atkeson, Woman on the Farm, 25.

29. Ibid., 26-27.

30. Gertrude Humphreys, "Incomes of West Virginia Families," Good Living Series 7 (1939): 1-2.

31. Data compiled from nine "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets," 21,27.

32. Shirley C. Eagan, "West Virginia Farm Women's Club," Missing Chapters II: West Virginia Women in History (Charleston: West Virginia Women's Commission, 1986), 156.

33. Data compiled from eight "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets," 23; Mountain State Home Industries Shops, Inc., were opened in 1924 to help farm women and girls market products. Work was done in spare time and solved the farm homemaker's problem of how to turn time into much needed money for necessities and enjoyment of life. Shops were opened in Clarksburg, Parkersburg, and other places.

34. McClung, "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets," 8, 30, 33.

35. GFWC Survey, Table X; Data compiled from nine "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets," 8, 30, 33.

36. Data compiled from "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets," 30.

37. GFWC Survey, Table X; Data compiled from "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets," 8.

38. Data compiled from "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheets," 29.

39. Ibid., 40-42.

40. Hogue, "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheet," 44.

41. Van Metre, "Master Farm Homemaker Work Sheet," 45.

42. Gertrude Dicken. " The Farm Woman Wins Her Place," The Farm Journal, (February 1952) as quoted in 100 Years of Farm Journal, by the editors of Farm Journal (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1976), 203.

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