When Scholars Collaborate: New Book on Rural Women

When Scholars Collaborate: New Book on Rural Women

Linda M. Ambrose, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Canada





There’s a new book about rural women and it’s hot off the press! We are very pleased to announce the release of: Women in Agriculture: Professionalizing Rural Life in North America and Europe, 1880-1965, edited by Linda M. Ambrose and Joan M. Jensen and published by University of Iowa Press, 2017. https://www.uipress.uiowa.edu/books/2017-spring/women-agriculture.htm



The book consists of ten chapters written by contributors from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. In addition to Ambrose and Jensen, the authors are: Maggie Andrews, University of Worcester; Margreet van der Burg, Wageningen University; Cherisse Jones-Branch, Arkansas State University – Jonesboro; Amy L. McKinney, Northwest College; Anne L. Moore, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Karen Sayer, Leeds Trinity University; and Nicola Verdon, Sheffield Hallam University.

We are very excited to say that this publication is the result of collaborations that were nurtured at the Rural Women’s Studies Conferences and Agricultural History Society meetings over the past few years. The book reflects our ongoing transnational conversations, which have expanded the history of rural women from the United States to other countries, and continues to grow by uncovering previously untold stories and contributing to discussions and debates about feminism in rural settings. The collection advances our understanding of female experts, women’s collective action, and the local responses to advice offered from state and educational authorities. We focus as well on rural women’s greater participation in postsecondary education, paid work, and public roles.

The essays in this volume profile women whose work was embedded in specific national contexts and together they form a collective biography of women who graduated into a world that was not always prepared to welcome them into the public life that professions demanded. It was also a time when various academic social sciences—economics, sociology, and political science—were emerging. Middle-class men were already creating these new disciplines and prescribing more traditional gender roles for these New Women. Professional women contributing to food sciences, commodity production, and community outreach sometimes encountered opposition from men (a resistance we call the “new patriarchy”). At times, however, these women received important assistance from men, especially those who shared a common rural background and an interest in rural life and agricultural production. Given the complexity of this history of women entering rural professions related to food, it is important to explore both practice and policy through a lens that is gendered. Thus, a primary goal of our book is to emphasize the intersection of food studies and gender studies.

The scholarship of these authors forms part of the ongoing conversations within various disciplines of history—agriculture, gender, education, and public policy. By joining these ongoing scholarly discussions to food studies, we introduce new issues not always recognized as crucial to food studies. We framed our book as a discussion of the work done by various rural professionals who made major contributions to food production, food security, and food science. The essays recover untold stories of women who were significant to history in various ways, but most importantly, the collection emphasizes how food studies can be enriched by paying close attention to gender. The volume is listed in the Food Studies and Women’s Studies series from the University of Iowa Press.

A session dedicated to the story behind Women in Agriculture will be held on June 10 as part of the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Agricultural History Society in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The editors, several of the authors, and two reviewers of the book will participate. For details on the AHS program see: http://www.aghistorysociety.org/meetings/



Berks Panels of Interest, Part V

We’re highlighting panels of interest at the upcoming Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities to be held June 1-4, 2017, at Hostra University in Hempstead, New York, USA.  While these panels do not necessarily bill themselves as being about rural women, all of those we’ve chosen to highlight will examine issues of rurality in significant ways.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part V

s1093 – American Empire through the Eyes of Indigenous Women: Paradigms, Sources and Challenges

Sunday, June 4, 2017: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM

SC 143 (Hofstra University)


Kathryn Kish Sklar, Binghamton University

Resistance in the Highlands: Activism among Mayan Women and Interpretations of the Guatemalan Civil War, 1960-1996
Rachel O’Donnell, York University

The Historical Internalization and External Manifestations of Trauma Among African American and Native American Women 
Christine W. Thorpe, NYC College of Technology

Indigenous Women’s Leadership on the Columbia Plateau: Community Activism, 1900-2000
Laurie Arnold, Gonzaga University

Women’s Activism and the Colonial State in the Philippines, 1898-1930
Febe Pamonag, Western Illinois University


Cynthia Enloe, Clark University

Session Abstract

This interdisciplinary session explores the creation of a useable past for activists and historians that embraces both indigenous and imperial women in territories dominated by the United States, 1898-2000.  Its three case studies are also offered as paradigms for the study of women in modern empires comparatively and globally considered.  Focusing on examples of indigenous women’s responses to American imperial power since 1898—in North America, the Philippines and Central America–the papers address questions designed to help us analyze and understand the options that indigenous women chose in their interactions with imperial coercion.  Our commentator will compare those options.

The papers ask:

  • How did Native traditions of women’s leadership promote the survival of Native people in North America, 1900-2000? by Laurie Arnold of Gonzaga University;
  • How did the adoption of women’s rights agendas by Philippine women enable them simultaneously to support and oppose American colonization, 1898-1930? by Febe Pamonag of Western Illinois University;
  • How did Mayan women’s participation in resistance movements in Guatemala limit American colonization, 1960-2000? by Rachel O’Donnell of York University, Toronto.

Using indigenous language sources, the papers explore patterns of cultural revival, assimilation and resistance.  Each pattern was present to some degree in all the cases, but each paper helps us understand why one pattern prevailed as indigenous women adopted different strategies in different circumstances.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part IV

We’re highlighting panels of interest at the upcoming Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities to be held June 1-4, 2017, at Hostra University in Hempstead, New York, USA.  While these panels do not necessarily bill themselves as being about rural women, all of those we’ve chosen to highlight will examine issues of rurality in significant ways.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part IV

s1355 – Black Women and their Property: comparing 18th and 19th-Century Brazil and Africa

Friday, June 2, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

BRESL 28 (Hofstra University)


Mariana L. R. Dantas, Ohio University

Ironies of Brazilian slave society: African freedwomen, freeborn, and freed Afro-descendent women and their slaveholding, c. 1750 – c. 1850
Douglas C. Libby, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Female Landowner Strategies in Pre-colonial Saint Louis, Senegal, 1758-1819
Lindsey Ann Gish, Michigan State University

Black Women’s Labor and Property Ownership in Rural Brazil, 1860-1930
Mary Ann Mahony, Central Connecticut State University

Women and Property in Nineteenth Century Luanda
Vanessa dos Santos Oliveira, York University

Session Abstract

The scholarship on African and African-descending women within the Atlantic world has often emphasized the role they played in local commerce as market women and peddlers of foodstuff and other regional commodities. Indeed, historians have more than once attempted to link the commercial activities of slave and free African-descending women in Brazil to the known predominance of women in market activities in pre-colonial and colonial West and Central Africa. Yet these women were important economic agents in ways that exceeded their involvement in commerce. As the papers in this panel argue, African and African-descending women in Brazil and Africa often owned land and slaves and engaged in the dominant activities of their local and regional economies. Moreover, these women’s ownership and claims to property placed them at the center of legal and social negotiations of rights and privileges that challenged societal expectations of how property holding and economic power should be circumscribed by race and gender. The comparative discussion of Black female property holding proposed by this panel will thus explore parallel ways in which these women helped to shape patterns of ownership of property in Brazil and West and Central Africa. It will also promote a discussion of potential Atlantic connections between these women’s experiences as property owners and economic agents who influenced much more than local commerce.



Berks Panels of Interest, Part III

We’re highlighting panels of interest at the upcoming Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities to be held June 1-4, 2017, at Hostra University in Hempstead, New York, USA.  While these panels do not necessarily bill themselves as being about rural women, all of those we’ve chosen to highlight will examine issues of rurality in significant ways.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part III


s1481 – Intersections of Gender, Racialized Labor, and Colonial Formations in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Great Lakes

Friday, June 2, 2017: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM

BRESL 111 (Hofstra University)


Lucy Murphy, Ohio State University

From Raised to Trade to Razed by Trade: French and Native Women in the Eighteenth-Century Fur Trade
Karen L. Marrero, Wayne State University

Maple Sugar Trade Tensions: Abolitionist Expansion and Ojibwe Women’s Land Claims in the Upper Great Lakes, 1787 to 1840
Emily J. Macgillivray, University of Michigan

We are Real Indians in Our Everys: Domestic Work, Wage Labor and the Making of Anthropology
Maeve Kane, University at Albany, SUNY


Lucy Murphy, Ohio State University

Session Abstract

This panel positions gender as a central lens for interpreting Great Lakes history from the early 1700s to the mid-1800s by demonstrating that multiple forms of labor performed by women of African, Native, and European descent shaped important events in the region, including political conflicts, legal trials, and treaties. Taking women of different racial backgrounds and the various forms of labor they engaged in as departure points, these papers explore the relationship between gender, racialized labor, and French, British and American forms of colonialism in the Great Lakes.  From the labor of enslaved women of Native and African descent in the Illinois Country under French rule, to French and Native women’s procurement of trade goods in eighteenth-century economic hubs after the British gained control of the region, to the relationship between Ojibwe women’s production of maple sugar and the expanding American republic in the nineteenth century, this panel explores the various ways women with differing access to power performed multiple forms of labor as a central part of their livelihood. Together these papers illustrate how women accessed and participated in economic networks while control of the region shifted between imperials powers and non-Native settlement intensified throughout the Great Lakes.  By looking at the ways women engaged in free and unfree labor, this panel makes both historiographical and methodological interventions by foregrounding the importance of a gendered and racialized history of labor in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Great Lakes.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part II

Over the next several weeks, we will be highlighting additional panels of interest at the upcoming Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities to be held June 1-4, 2017, at Hostra University in Hempstead, New York, USA.  While these panels do not necessarily bill themselves as being about rural women, all of those we’ve chosen to highlight will examine issues of rurality in significant ways.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part II

s1545 – Alternative Agricultures: Women Farmers and Farm Workers in the Twentieth Century U.S.

Friday, June 2, 2017: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM

RSVLT 108 (Hofstra University)


Stacy N. Roberts, University of California, Davis

Pickers, Packers, and Beauty Queens: Women’s Labor and Sex Symbolism in North Carolina’s Strawberry Fields and Festivals, 1900-1970 
Stacy N. Roberts, University of California, Davis

Yeomen With No Men: Female Farmers Eschewing Marriage in California, 1870-1900
Bethany Hopkins, University of California, Davis

Same Church, Different Pew: Women and Intentional Catholic Farming in the Hudson River Valley
Sally Dwyer-McNulty, Marist College


Cynthia Culver Prescott, University of North Dakota

Session Abstract

This panel seeks to examine the role of women in agriculture throughout the long twentieth century in the continental United States. Panel chair, Stacy N. Roberts, takes us into the fields and festivals that marked the strawberry harvest season in rural North Carolina. Women were crucial to the success of this alterative crop in the Jim Crow South. The wages earned by both African American women and children mimicked the labor system seen elsewhere, particularly in the U.S. Southwest. Bethany Hopkins’s “Yeoman With No Men” takes us to the Southwest and the fields of sunny California where women owned and operated farms for various reasons. However, given the gender norms of the late nineteenth century, women who chose to remain single and operate a farm had to co-opt the language of domesticity to make their businesses acceptable to society at large. Finally, Sally Dwyer-McNulty moves the panel forward into the mid-twentieth century and the Hudson River Valley to examine the farming experiments of Catholic women and the leadership roles they nutured. Taken together, these papers will unearth the varied experiences of women in agriculture and demonstrate how they often challenged contemporary social and cultural norms.


Berks Panels of Interest, Part I

Over the next several weeks, we will be highlighting additional panels of interest at the upcoming Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities to be held June 1-4, 2017, at Hostra University in Hempstead, New York, USA.  While these panels do not necessarily bill themselves as being about rural women, all of those we’ve chosen to highlight will examine issues of rurality in significant ways.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part I

s1455 – Gendering Urban and Rural Spaces in Twentieth-Century Africa and Latin America

Friday, June 2, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

Plaza room 3 (Hofstra University)


Rachel Jean-Baptiste, University of California, Davis

Going to the Movies, Constructing Race and Gender in 1920s Brazil
Lena Oak Suk, University of Louisiana, Lafayette

The Ideal Citizen? The State, Rural Women and Nation-Building in 1960s and 1970s Tanzania
Husseina Dinani, University of Toronto, Scarborough

Talking about Sex: Urbanity, Morality, and Sex Education Debates in 1920s and 1930s Mexico
Melanie Huska, Tulane University


Rachel Jean-Baptiste, University of California, Davis

Session Abstract

This panel explores competing visions of gendered spaces in Africa and Latin America. In periods of political and social change, from post-revolutionary Mexico to post-colonial Tanzania, state authorities and popular media imagined how women might contribute to shifting urban and rural landscapes. How did official and popular discourses express notions of citizenship, progress, and morality through visions of the urban and the rural, and what role would women play in constructing these spaces? In Brazil, Mexico, and Tanzania, political and moral authorities both idealized and demonized images of urban and rural women, and attempted to circumscribe their behavior through censorship, education, and residential resettlement. Yet, women affected their own natural and built environments through social practices and self-representations. While drawing from feminist geographies that analyze space and gender as mutually constitutive, this panel provides a novel approach by examining both rural and urban spaces in comparative context. Lena Suk highlights how images of urban space affected the racial representation of movie-going women in early twentieth-century Brazil. Melanie Huska addresses intersections of gender, morality and urbanity in the post-revolutionary Mexican government’s attempts to introduce sex education. Husseina Dinani examines the role of gender and rural space in post-colonial Tanzania in the 1960s and 1970s, illuminating both the state’s constructions of citizenship and women’s engagement in various nation-building projects. Together, a central question we pose is how notions of “urban” and “rural” were gendered and how the women who occupied these spaces also shaped them.



RWSA 2018 Call for Presentations and Papers



The Triennial Rural Women’s Studies Association (RWSA) conference is only about a year away! Check out the Call for Presentations here and on our web site. The deadline for proposal submissions is May 31, 2017, so put on your thinking bonnets, and start working on your proposals right away! We want the 2018 meeting to be the best one yet!

Amish thinking bonnets


RWSA 2018 Call for Presentations & Papers

Surviving and Thriving: Gender, Justice, Power, and Place Making

Rural Women’s Studies Association Triennial Conference

Hosted by Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
May 17-19, 2018

The theme, “Surviving and Thriving: Gender, Justice, Power, and Place Making,” emphasizes the role of gender in rural community formation and survival. It allows for exploration of the ways that gendered identity (as women, men, or bi- and trans-) and raced identity (within separatist communities, segregated neighborhoods, or integrated spaces) affected personal power, individual choice, and community development. These subjects lend themselves to exploration of rural activism, business development, cultural expression, self-governance, and collective experiences—both historical and contemporary—locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.

RWSA is an international association founded in 1997 to promote and advance farm and rural women’s/gender studies in a historical perspective by encouraging research, promoting scholarship, and establishing and maintaining links with organizations that share these goals. RWSA welcomes academic scholars, public historians and archivists, graduate students, and representatives of rural organizations and communities as conference participants and members.

Presentations take many forms at RWSA conferences, including workshops, panel sessions, tours, interactive sessions, roundtable discussions, poster presentations, open-mic discussions, performances, readings, and audiovisual presentations. The RWSA encourages inter-, trans- or multi-disciplinary approaches that connect rural women’s/gender history and present-day political, ecological, or social and economic concerns, worldwide. The RWSA seeks to integrate creative work with the conference theme, and we encourage artists working in visual, film, performative, and literary genres to submit their ideas to make the conference most dynamic.

The theme: Surviving and Thriving encourages exploration of several sub-themes:

  • coping with change using creative and alternative strategies
  • ecofeminism; natural resources; environmental legacies, livelihoods and politics
  • sustainable development, feminism, activism and social justice
  • rural economics; gendered and spatial analysis of poverty, economic inequality, and wealth
  • folkways, tangible and intangible cultural heritage, and cultural identities

Please submit the following information by 31 May 2017.

  1. Title of paper/panel/poster/workshop/performance (working title is acceptable).
  2. 200 word description/abstract of paper, panel, poster, workshop, performance, etc.
  3. Brief vita/bio of presenter or panel participants and complete contact information for all.

Please indicate if your proposal does not fit in the regular session time of 1.5 hour with three presentations and discussion. We will contact you if your proposal has been accepted.

Submissions should be sent electronically (as a single word document) to: RWSA2018@gmail.com

If it is not possible to send your proposal electronically, please send by regular mail to:

Cherisse Jones-Branch
Professor of History
Department of History
P.O. Box 1690
Arkansas State University, AR 72467

Program Committee Co-chairs: Cherisse Jones-Branch, Arkansas State University, and Debra A. Reid, The Henry Ford (Dearborn, Michigan)

Program Committee Members: Mary Larson, President of the Oral History Association and Oklahoma State University; Maggie Weber, Iowa State University; Suzie Acord, Athens County Rural Action; Amy McKinney, Northwest College; Rebecca Montgomery, Texas State University; Catherine Wilson, University of Guelph, ex officio member.

For information on travel grants and letters of invitation, contact Katherine Jellison at jellison@ohio.edu. For additional information on the RWSA, please go to the organization website.