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Aug 16

Women and Rural Life in Kansas 100 Years Ago

Posted on August 16, 2018 at 10:04 AM by Bill Sowers

Let's step back 100 years ago and take a look at farm life through the eyes of Mrs. W. R. Miller, "farmer's wife, Topeka." In a short article found in the 21st Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture (1917-1918) she describes her day-to-day experiences in light of a rapidly changing world around her.

She does not pine away for simpler times or express concern for the loneliness of rural life. She exalts it as a rich, varied existence filled with many opportunities, community, family and life-long friendships. She celebrates the solitude, natural beauty, hard work and the accomplishments of her life and, in a very cool way, describes the changes of post World War I America that are pulling rural Kansans into the Information Age along with their urban cousins. She writes:

"Life is not a simple matter anywhere. The world, because of such vast improvements in methods of communication and travel, is not nearly so large as it used to be. We can know what is happening on the other side of the globe in less time than it used to take for the news to travel across the state. The telephone links cities together, joins town and country, and hinges neighborliness to farm dwellers living miles apart. The daily delivery of mail with papers and magazines and friendly letters, puts us in touch with world affairs, and we learn of the events of the day almost as soon as the city people. The automobile, in ever-increasing numbers, coupled with good roads demanded by the autoist, but the benefit of which extends to everyone, is another great boon for farm folks."

This is obviously a promotional piece meant to encourage other women to consider country living. But it is also a look at a strong, well written woman of her time who makes no apologies for who she is. We might find it hard to understand the social norms of the early 20th century but it's worth the read.

You can find this article online at the State Library of Kansas' KGI Online Library: