Mobilizing the rural home front : the extension service, Montana women, and World War II
Werner, Kathleen Elizabeth
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The U.S. government’s push to mobilize all sectors of its population during World War II has taken many forms. For women, most of the attention has focused on urban workers and others who may have engaged in factory work. Rural women, however, were important during the war. Agricultural production was vital to America’s success; a country needs to feed its people to win a war. Unlike the popularization of work in the factories, women’s labor in agricultural production was not feminized. The government worked to create an ideology for rural women that preserved their identity as homemakers but also encouraged agricultural labor. In the rural front, women had to be pulled into the effort; mobilizing them to the cause was essential to national unity. The purpose of this research is to examine the mobilization efforts made towards rural Montana women. What kinds of messages did the national press issue to women, and specifically, to what extent did the Montana Home Extension Service participate in assisting the government’s construction of rural women’s wartime identity? Examining the Cooperative Extension Service’s annual reports in Montana demonstrates how the government sought to mobilize rural women. By looking at Montana State College Home Economics Department’s domestic and scientific training demonstrates how rural women were helped during the war years. Lastly, by comparing those findings with national magazines idea of women’s identity in World War II shows the importance of homemakers. The study reveals that rural women were presented as patriotic homemakers, whose sole aim was to preserve democratic ideals and safeguard the family.