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Rural Southern Women, The Family Economy, and Economic Change

By Melissa Walker

Billy Lee Jones, the wife of a rural Louisiana landowner, told an interviewer that "A man never made a living alone on the farm. He always had to have his wife helping him." Texan Etta Carroll and her husband spent their adult lives first as cotton sharecroppers, then as a landowning small farmers. She explained that "if it hadn't have been for the women, the men couldn't have gotten to work. (laughs) So, they did housework and helped with the farm, too."1 Farming during the first half of the twentieth century, Billy Lee Jones and Etta Carroll asserted the importance of the farm wife to the success of the farming operation. But they were not talking simply about the wife's emotional support for her husband or about her efforts to make a welcoming farm home. Instead Jones and Carroll were asserting the centrality of women to the complex Southern farm family economy in the early twentieth century.

Of course, farmers, like all workers, seek to "make a living." Today we associate making a living with earning a cash income, and we tend to think of the farmer's living as the money he or she receives from selling livestock and cash crops. That understanding of making a living to some degree describes the market-oriented, specialized commercial agriculture that scholars have come to call "capitalist agriculture." Capitalist agriculture became the dominant model for the agricultural economy in the late twentieth century. However, the transition to capitalist agriculture was a protracted and complicated process, especially in the South. Along the way to specialized commercial agriculture, farm families combined subsistence and market-oriented economic activities in ways that were calculated to meet their own goals of independence, well-being, and family persistence on the land.2

As a result, early twentieth century farmers did not equate making a living with simply earning money. They understood the family economy in broader and more complex terms. The family economy included everything the farm family did to support itself. This included raising livestock and crops to sell on the open market. Just as important to the family economy was providing the family's subsistence--the things they needed from day to day. Raising a garden was part of the family economy. So was caring for a milk cow. Canning and drying foods for the winter were part of the family economy. But so was the intensive labor of stretching scarce resources. We sometimes forget that cutting back on expenses is an economic act. For every dollar that a farm wife saved by making instead of buying her daughters' dresses or her husband's shirts, another dollar was available to buy seed corn, purchase a mule, or pay real estate taxes on the farm. Often farm families found that producing food or making clothing were just as essential to the family's well-being as selling a cotton crop or surplus eggs. Since neither wages nor cash income determined the total value of an individual's work to the early twentieth-century farm family economy, men's and women's work were both valued components of that economy. As historian Mary Neth has reminded us, farm women saw their work as "an integral part of the family farm economy," and they saw themselves as necessary workers in the farm operation.3

Yet as the Southern farm economy was transformed in the twentieth century, women's place in the family economy and the types of work they performed also changed. During the economic downturns of the early twentieth century, women's work helped to assure the survival of the farm family AND the survival of the farm. Yet as Southerners increasingly turned to specialized commercial agriculture, farm women found that their subsistence and petty commodity production were viewed as less important. They often responded to these changes by shifting their efforts to working in the commercial farming operation or to taking off-farm jobs that contributed to the family economy in different ways. In this paper, I will explore this shift through farm women's oral history narratives.4

We often forget that the early twentieth century South was a varied place. Farmers might grow tobacco in North Carolina, cotton in central Texas or the Mississippi Delta, sugar cane in Louisiana, or livestock in East Tennessee. In the upland regions of the South, small farmers often engaged in general farming, producing a variety of crops for the market but focusing primarily on the family's subsistence. We also forget that the ethnic and racial make-up of the rural South was varied. In addition to black and white farmers all over the South, German, Norwegian, and Czech immigrants farmed in central Texas and in other parts of the South while Cherokee Indians farmed on the Qualla Reservation in Western North Carolina.5

Whatever the varieties of Southern agriculture and rural populations, in the early twentieth century, most Southerners lived on farms, and most Southern farmers struggled as fluctuating prices for farm commodities made life increasingly difficult. Poor soil and an unpredictable market impoverished many farmers. Tenancy continued to grow in the twentieth century as a cycle of overproduction, declining cotton prices, and indebtedness sucked millions of Southern cotton farmers, black and white, into the crop lien system. By 1930, nearly 80 percent of Southern black farmers and almost half of white farmers worked land belonging to someone else. Sharecroppers exercised little control over their own lives, finding themselves at the mercy of the landlord as well as the weather and the world commodities market. After World War I, farm commodity prices plunged, and the Great Depression would only serve to worsen the region's agricultural economy. The arrival of the boll weevil, an insect that destroyed cotton crops, worsened the economic situation for cotton farmers. Nor did holding on to the land guarantee prosperity. Small landowners were often no better off than tenants. Although independent from landlords, they were often deeply in debt and were dependent on outside wage work to remain financially afloat.6

The Early Twentieth Century Family Economy

In spite of the diversity of the region, patterns of daily life did not vary a great deal in the South. Some rural women enjoyed great prosperity as landowners while many others suffered great poverty as sharecroppers. Yet regardless of her class, race, or the type of farming in which her family engaged, the seasonal rhythms of the land and the needs of her family dominated a woman's life. The rhythms of work described by the wife of a white landowner in Mississippi are strikingly similar to the account given by the wife of a black tenant farmer in eastern North Carolina, even though the material and psychological conditions of their lives might vary a great deal. Farm women engaged in three major types of work: domestic work, petty commodity production, and field work. All of these types of work were essential components of the family economy.

Farm women were responsible for most of the domestic work, work that some scholars call reproductive work because its goal is to sustain the next generation. They carried water and cooked. The farm wife cared for children and cleaned the farm home, often with great difficulty in substandard housing without running water. They did laundry, usually outdoors over a boiling kettle filled by carrying water from a nearby well or a more distant spring or creek. They made most of the family's clothing, buying fabric or recycling the cotton sacks that held flour and chicken feed into blouses, dresses, shirts, underwear, sheets, dish towels, and even curtains. They often manufactured their own soap. In general, farm women managed most of a farm's subsistence activities, raising gardens and caring for livestock. They processed and preserved the food they produced for the family's immediate and future use.

Farm women's subsistence production blended with the second area of their work: petty commodity production. They sold surplus milk, butter, eggs, and other commodities. Farm women used the cash they earned to buy household supplies that they could not produce including salt, coffee, and sugar, cloth for family clothing, schoolbooks and shoes for the children. Occasionally, a farm woman might use some of her income to purchase small items to improve her home, including rugs, wringer washers, or other things that might beautify the home or simplify her work life.7

Finally, most farm women, with the exception of the most prosperous, worked in the fields. They chopped cotton, topped tobacco, hoed corn, and occasionally even plowed the fields. Some farm women were "regular hands," routinely working in the fields while others served as an enormous reserve labor force, providing necessary labor at planting, harvest, and other peak times.8

A few specific example will illustrate the women's varied contributions to the family economy. Delilah Woodruff, a white farm woman from Sevier County, Tennessee, epitomized the innovative early twentieth century farm wife who made the most of the resources produced on the farm. Her granddaughter bragged that Delilah could make use of every part of a hog "except its squeal." While her husband combined farming their steep acreage in the Great Smoky Mountains with logging work for a nearby lumber company, Delilah provided most of the family's subsistence. Spring and summer usually found her in the garden or the kitchen. Her garden provided fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the summer, and she dried the surplus for the winter months. She raised chickens and cows and bartered her eggs and butter for the sugar, salt, and coffee that she could not produce on the farm. In the fall, Woodruff and her husband killed the hogs that they had fattened during the summer, and she smoked hams and made sausage. Woodruff spent the quieter winter months carding and spinning the wool sheared from her sheep to knit socks for the children and sewing most of the family's clothing. At times, to supplement her family's cash income, she took in boarders who worked in the nearby lumber camps.9

Deola Adams' mother also found it necessary to supplement her family's cash income. The wife of a black landowning farmer in central Texas, she kept the house, raised a garden, and preserved food for her family. Landowning gave black farm families like Adams' some measure of independence, but it did not guarantee prosperity. Often African Americans owned less fertile land--the only land whites had been willing to sell them, and often their farms were too small to support a large family. Frequently economic necessity compelled black women, landowners and tenants alike, to work off the farm. Deola Adams, recalled that her mother supplemented the family's income by doing domestic work for various white women in the nearby village of Gatesville. Other black farm women performed day labor in the fields for white planters. Women like Adams did triple duty--caring for children and household, pitching in with farm work, and performing off-farm work to supplement the family income.10

The wife of a white sharecropper in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Sally Turner Page focused most of her efforts on caring for her nine children. But her family's landless status meant she had fewer resources to stretch. She also managed the disruption of frequent moves--twenty of them between 1907 and 1945. At each of the family's sharecropping farms, her husband and the oldest children cared for the cotton crop, while Page gardened, preserved food, and struggled to keep a series of substandard tenant houses clean. She also milked a small herd of cows and sold her surplus milk and vegetables to supplement the farm income.11

White Mississippian Ruth Irwin described her landowning mother's routine to an interviewer who suggested that people visited one another more often in the early twentieth century because they were perhaps not as busy as today:

I don't know what you'd call busy. My mother helped my father to milk 15 cows. She churned butter in a dasher churn for sale. After we got a separator to separate the cream, she sold cream. She sold 20 dozen eggs a week. She had three girls and she made all their clothes and one boy and she made his shirts. She made my father's shirts. She cooked for five day hands, two meals a day on workdays, five days a week. I reckon you'd call that work.12

Elizabeth Lasseter, the wife of an Alabama farmer, described her family's Depression-era experiences. The Lasseters rented a farm near Gadsden for $600 a year. Elizabeth's petty commodity income was as important to paying the farm rent as the income from the sale of field crops. She raised and sold chickens. She also milked two cows and sold her milk and butter. The couple raised most of the family's food. She made dresses for others for 50 cents each. She made sheets from guano sacks. Lasseter's description of her work makes it clear how she saw the family economy as well as that she saw herself a full partner in making the family living. She told an interviewer: "We had a good living because we raised all our lard and our meat and chickens. We could do that at home. We had a good living but we didn't have any money. There was just no money to be had."13

Like Lasseter, Rita Harwell of Georgallen, Alabama, sold her petty commodities to supplement the family income. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, she peddled surplus garden produce at the local curb market sponsored by the home demonstration club council. Eventually Harwell began to make a few cakes to sell there too. Soon she began to get orders and was making 50 to 60 cakes a week. During the Christmas season, she was taking orders for three to four hundred cakes a week. Filling these orders required the cooperation of the entire family. She proudly explained to the interviewer that she put her children through college on her cake income.14

Like their petty commodity production, farm women's field work was also important to the family economy, and women found ways to balance this field work with their other responsibilities. White Texan Avery Downing described his mother's balancing act: "My mother was a strong woman in every way, physically extremely strong, mentally, and psychologically. . . . But my father was not as strong physically and many times my mother would help get the ox out of the ditch in the fields and in the barns. But it was her responsibility to take care of the food and the clothes, the washing, ironing and the child raising, for the most part."15 Alma Hale described a similar balancing act her mother performed at cotton picking time on her childhood farm outside Temple, Texas. "Mama stayed at home and cooked. Part of the time, she'd pick. When she wasn't home cooking, why, she would come and pick cotton, too." On days when her mother picked cotton, the family ate leftovers for supper.16

Part of the balancing act performed by women who worked in the fields was finding a way to care for small children. Oral history narrators described a variety of strategies for child care. Some left them in the care of elderly relatives or older children. Some mothers tied infants to their fronts or backs or dragged toddlers behind them on the end of the cotton sack. Texan Robert DeMent described the baby house many families used to take care of their children while in the field. He described a playpen-like structure which secured the child: "They'd build a little house on a sled like, slide like, you know, maybe so wide, and put a roof on it, wire around it so the kid couldn't get out. Put the quilt on the bottom and put it out in the field and put it under a tree."17

Lessie Shiveley, a white woman from Kanawha County, West Virginia, bragged about her field labor: "Pretty near every woman . . . done a man's work. I've done everything but plowing. I've worked in hay, I've binded oats, I've shucked corn. Done everything in the world that a man could do but plow." As Lessie Shively makes clear, Southern farm women's work was essential to the farm family economy in the early twentieth century.18

Changes in the Southern Farm Economy at Mid-Century

The Great Depression and World War II helped set in motion a series of profound changes in the Southern agricultural economy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal established a number of federal programs designed to reduce farm production and thus raise farm commodity prices. Initially hailed as the saving grace for Southern farmers, the commodity-based agricultural programs of the New Deal failed to alleviate most human suffering because the structure of the programs favored landlords at the expense of tenants. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration, for example, paid farmers to reduce their production of several commodities. Southern landowners, themselves strapped by the economic depression, quickly grasped the potential to use AAA programs to hang on to their land. They calculated that their best chances for a profitable future on the land lay in changing their farming practices, and AAA programs offered a means for achieving this transformation. But sharecroppers found little help from AAA. Although the law required that landowners share their AAA crop reduction payments with sharecroppers in the same proportion as the sharecroppers shared the crop, many landlords refused to comply. As they removed land from production, many landowners evicted their sharecroppers. Landlords used crop reduction payments to buy tractors and other equipment that eliminated the need for year-round sharecroppers who were replaced by occasional day hands when landowners needed manual labor.19

On the heels of the changes wrought by New Deal programs, World War II created unprecedented prosperity in the rural South. Farm prices were high, and the booming economy provided plenty of opportunities for off-farm work. Even before Pearl Harbor, factories inside and outside the region had begun to increase production and to create new opportunities for employment. This trend lured many people from the land. White women and African Americans of both sexes found that doors to better paying off-farm jobs once closed to them now opened. The South's farm population declined by 22 percent during World War II, partly as a result of young men joining the war effort and partly as a result of wartime off-farm job opportunities. Farm laborers and sharecroppers made up the majority of those leaving the land permanently.20

World War II also stimulated a revolution in American agricultural productivity that would further transform rural life. Improved varieties of crops and livestock made possible by advances in genetics, the use of new chemicals to kill weeds and insect pests and to fertilize the land, and mechanization changed everything for farmers. This productivity revolution was particularly powerful in the South.21

If the New Deal had provided landowners with the wherewithall to begin mechanization, World War II created a labor shortage that made mechanization and improved farming methods vital to survival. During the war, landowners found it hard to hire farm hands. The introduction of improved mechanical cotton pickers during World War II clinched the Southern agricultural transformation. Southern farmers bought tractors and mechanical pickers, used DDT to eliminate the boll weevil and other pests, and adopted new herbicides to eliminate the need to chop cotton by hand, thus rendering remaining sharecroppers obsolete. Many Southern farmers quit cotton farming and diversified in the 1950s and 1960s, opting for new strains of grains that were more suited to the peculiarities of the Southern climate. Others planted orchards or raised livestock.22

Government agricultural programs also contributed to the shift to large-scale commercial farming. A complex allotment system, one legacy of the New Deal, assigned each landowner a specific number of acres for overproduced commodities like cotton, rice, and tobacco. The allotments quickly became assets in their own right. As allotments grew in value, landowners bought and sold them like commodities. Small landowners often found their allotments much too small to be profitable. Many responded by selling their farms and their remaining allotments to large landowners who could afford to offset allotment cuts by using more fertilizer, pesticides, and technology to increase their per acre yields.

All of these changes resulted in a mass exodus from the rural South. In mid-century small landowners and sharecroppers abandoned the countryside in droves. During the 1950s, 67,000 African American and 413,000 white landowners left farming. Between 1940 and 1960, nearly half a million sharecroppers left the land. Virginia McIntyre, a white woman from Franklin Parish, Louisiana, recalled that when she married, her husband employed 22 tenant families on the place, and all work was done by hand or with mules. She explained, "As time went on and things changed, after we got tractors instead of mules. . ., we ended up the last few years with one colored man helping him," she explained to an interviewer in 1982. "Now they can just do it so fast, where it used to take fifteen or twenty to cut hay. . . . Now it's so much easier." A new capital-intensive form of agriculture had replaced the old labor- intensive system.23

Women and the Family Economy in a

Time of Agricultural Transformation

The transformation of Southern agriculture into capital intensive commercial agriculture profoundly altered the roles of women on the farm. Women's work changed, but it remained essential to maintaining or improving the family's standard of living and to enabling the family to farm successfully. The old work of making do, stretching resources, and producing the family's food and clothing became less necessary as both the family's cash income and their need for cash to pay for equipment and chemicals increased. It became more cost-effective to buy food and clothing while devoting more of the family's energy to producing commodities for the market. Although farm women continued to raise gardens, care for livestock, and make clothing up to the end of the twentieth century, this work came to be seen as non-essential and even as not being "work" because it did not produce an income. By the same token, as large milk and poultry producers appeared in the region and as large supermarket chains replaced locally owned produce outlets such as women's curb markets, farm women found it harder to market their milk, butter, eggs, and vegetables.

At the same time, some women increased their role in the farm operation, finding niches for themselves on commercial farms. Some women became partners in the farm operation. For example, Mabel Love of Loudon County, Tennessee, worked with her husband to transform the small general farm that they inherited from his parents into a large commercial dairy operation. "We just kept on buying a little bit more land," she explained. "The first one I guess that we bought was that area right up where you go around the curve up there. . . . And we bought that and paid on it a while and then decided to try to buy some more. . . Then after we got that paid for, which was quite a job to get that done, then we bought where that field is right over there on top of the hill." Love's use of the pronoun we to refer to decisions about land purchases and other farming changes suggests that she saw herself as a full partner in the farm operation. Another farm partner was Kline Cash's mother who kept the books for the family's commercial peach farming operation near Chesnee, South Carolina. Annie Avis and her husband entered farming after his stint in the military. In 1948, while he was still stationed in Hawaii, Annie negotiated the purchase of a farm outside Burton, Texas. "He hadn't even seen it," she noted. After his discharge in the 1950s, the couple returned to the farm and raised beef cattle. Like many Southern farmers in the second half of the century, they supplemented their agricultural income with a business venture. Avis, a trained nurse, ran a nursing home for 10 years.24

A few women farmed on their own. Ruth Hatchette McBrayer took over her family's peach farm after her husband's death in 1947. The farm "was just dumped on me," she explained. "I didn't know what to do really, but fortunately I learned." She quickly discovered that her husband had died heavily in debt, so she set out to pay off the bills. Once that was done, she said, "I thought, `If I can make that much money, I'll make some for myself.'" She soon became intensely interested in the business of peach farming. She joined the South Carolina Peach Growers Association and took every Agricultural Extension Service shortcourse that she could work into her schedule. At first, her male neighbors doubted her ability to make a go of farming on her own but eventually "when the men in the community saw that I had the determination and the courage and the ability, instead of conniving against me, they began to try to help me." Eager to adopt new technology, she installed the first orchard irrigation system in Cherokee County. A profitable grower, McBrayer farmed until her retirement in 1985.25

While some women took a larger role in commercial farming operations, others entered the paid workforce during and after World War II. Women's off-farm jobs subsidized the farming operation and often enabled families to maintain something resembling a middle class lifestyle as husbands struggled to survive the unpredictable agricultural economy. Agnes Massirer, the German-American wife of a central Texas cotton farmer, explained that she often worked in the fields alongside her husband until the 1950s when mechanical combines and cotton pickers arrived. At that point, she left field work to her husband. After her youngest child was in school, she took a job at a nearby hospital. "There was a lot of things I wanted in the house and my husband wasn't able to buy it because we just didn't make that much," she told an interviewer. "That was the only way I was going to get it--if I went to work." She worked at the hospital for 27 years. Peggy Delozier Jones, a white Loudon County, Tennessee, farm wife with a degree in home economics, supervised the WPA school lunch program in her county and then worked for the local welfare department. She saw her work outside the home as a way to provide college educations for her sons. Mary Evelyn Lane of Blount County, Tennessee, returned to teaching school when the wartime emergency forced county officials to lift the ban on hiring married teachers. She continued to teach while her husband farmed. White Alamaban Mildred Farrow made it clear how changes in the farm economy necessitated changes in the way women contributed to the family economy. She and her husband purchased a farm when he returned home from military service, but "then it got where you couldn't make a living at it, so we went to mill work." Textile mill jobs provided the couple with a steady income and allowed them to hold on to their land if not to farm full time. Farrow noted that the shift to modern capital-intensive methods of farming helped push her and other women that she knew into the work force. She noted that most women

"around us was working back then. . . . That was some extra income for the family. The husband just stayed on the farm and kept working and the wives worked at public works to gather up extra money. You hate to go away and leave your kids. But still, you wanted to educate them, and they had to have clothes, they had to have other things that you could not buy when you was just depending on farming, because by the time you bought your seed, fertilizer, poison [pesticides], and all the equipment and everything that always tore up, . . . you didn't have any money left."26

For Southern women who remained on the land, usually the wives of white landowners, life often grew more comfortable and more prosperous by the 1960s. Not only did new technology change the nature of farming, but it eased the domestic burdens of farm women. Texan Etta Carroll said, "I thought we were flying when we got an electric refrigerator." Tennessean Kate Simmons explained that after the family obtained electricity "the first thing I bought was a stove, which I loved. I was ready to give up on that messy wood stove." In the nineteen fifties and sixties, daily life on the Southern farm became less onerous for most, and rural Southern women felt more a part of the American mainstream.27

Farm Women and the Family

Economy at the End of the Century

Changes in U.S. monetary policy and increased demand for American farm products on the world market caused a new agricultural boom in the 1970s, but as always, agricultural prosperity proved short-lived. In 1977, the boom began to slip away. Increased production resulted in lower commodity prices. Foreign nations recovered from the droughts and other natural disasters that had increased demand for American products. In an attempt to curb the rampant inflation of the 1970s, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, which of course increased farmers' costs for borrowing operating capital. President Jimmy Carter responded to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with a grain embargo that hit American farmers particularly hard.28

Small Southern farmers were hit hard by the new agricultural downturn. And again, rural Southerners responded to the agricultural crisis by leaving the land.29 At century's end, the few Southern farmers struggled to stay in business in the face of continued overproduction, steadily falling commodity prices, and cuts in federal agricultural subsidies while African American farmers fought a new battle against discrimination.30

Some family farms persist, as Southern farmers adapt to a changing world. They depend more on new information technologies. They also engage in diverse entrepreneurial ventures: producing organic and specialty crops for restaurants and gourmet foods stores; entering into arrangements with local consumers who buy a share of the farm's harvest each year; or contracting with large agribusiness corporations to produce poultry or crops. Many have converted their farms into educational and entertainment complexes. For example, Christmas tree farmers may provide customers with hay rides and hot chocolate. Crop farmers sometimes mow mazes into cornfields to provide fall entertainment to suburbanites and town dwellers who have rarely visited a working farm. The vineyards and wineries that have sprung up all over the South provide tours and tastings. All of these new ventures appeal to an increasingly affluent urban population, eliminate middle men, and allow farmers to reap higher profits by selling directly to consumers. Such innovations have enabled many Southerners to continue farming, and, like traditional farming, these ventures often require the labor and skills of the entire family. Women often become the financial managers or the creative forces behind novel farm undertakings, and they remain important workers in these ventures. Other farm women immersed themselves in activism, trying to save family farms during the late century agricultural crisis. For example, Lee County, South Carolina's Polly Woodham became a leader in several agricultural organizations, organizing farmers and lobbying Congress for new and better farm programs. Woodham explained that her work with farmer organizations was "one of the things that. . . really helped me and made me feel so much better" about dealing with the latest farm crisis.31

The women who are partners in these late century farming operations find themselves increasingly marginalized. Often women's off-farm jobs pay both family and farm bills, but scholars, reporters, and government officials rarely recognize the importance of their incomes. For example, in spite of all the recent news coverage of the plight of African American farmers, as a result of their lawsuit against the USDA, the wives who share the burden of keeping these farms going are rarely mentioned by reporters and are never referred to as "farmers." The commercialization of agriculture has made farm women and their work increasingly invisible.

In spite of their invisibility, Southern farm women remain central to the farm family economy. Their labor is often essential to commercial farming operations. Their off-farm incomes help pay the taxes and mortgages on family farms. They continue to be an integral part of the farm family's efforts to attain independence, well-being, and family persistence on the land.


1. Billy Lee Jones, Interviewed by Doris Ashley, May 10, 1982, West Monroe, LA, Extension Homemakers Oral History Project, copies of tape recordings in the Special Collections, Dacus Library, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, hereafter EHOHP; Donnie Lee and Etta Lillian Hardy Carroll, Interviewed by Rebecca Sharpless, on seven occasions from September 21, 1990 to July 11, 1991, Waxahachie, TX, Institute for Oral History, Baylor University, hereafter IOH.

2. For more on the shift to capitalist agriculture and the ways in which this shift effected a corresponding shift in the gender division of labor, see Allan Kulikoff, "The Transition to Capitalism in Rural America," The William and Mary Quarterly 46 (January 1989): 120-44; Kulikoff, "Households and Markets: Toward a New Synthesis of American Agrarian History," The William and Mary Quarterly 50 (April 1993): 342-55; and Nancy Grey Osterud, "Gender and the Transition to Capitalism in Rural America," Agricultural History 67 (Spring 1993): 14-29.

3. Mary Neth, Preserving the Family Farm: Women, Community, and the Foundations of Agribusiness in the Midwest, 1900-1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 215, 236. See also Neth, "Gender and the Family Labor System: Defining Work in the Rural Midwest," Journal of Social History 27 (March 1994): 563-77. For more on the work of Southern farm women and their role in the family economy, see Rebecca Sharpless, Fertile Ground, Narrow Choices: Women On Texas Cotton Farms, 1900-1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); Melissa Walker, All We Knew Was to Farm: Rural Women in the Upcountry South,1919-1941 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000); Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family, From Slavery to the Present (New York: Vintage, 1985) especially Chapters 3 and 6; Sally McMillen, "No Easy Time: Rural Southern Women, 1940-1990," in The Rural South Since World War II, R. Douglas Hurt, ed. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998): 59-94. Important studies on southern rural life in the twentieth century include Pete Daniel, Breaking the Land: The Transformation of Cotton, Tobacco, and Rice Cultures Since 1880 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980) and Standing at the Crossroads: Southern Life in the Twentieth Century (New York: Hill and Wang, 1986); Jack Temple Kirby, Rural Worlds Lost: The American South, 1920-1960 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987); Jeanette Keith, Country People in the New South: Tennessee's Upper Cumberland (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); Jeannie M. Whayne, A New Plantation South: Land, Labor, and Federal Favor in Twentieth Century Arkansas (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996); and Hurt, The Rural South Since World War II. A good general survey of the history of rural America, including the South, is David B. Danbom, Born in the Country: A History of Rural America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

4. For more on the way shifts in the family economy led to changes in women's work, see Walker, All We Knew Was to Farm, Chapters 2 and 7, and Epilogue.

5. For a perspective on the varieties of Southern agriculture in an earlier period, see Robert Tracy McKenzie, One South or Many? Plantation Belt and Upcountry in Civil War-Era Tennessee (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

6. Danbom, Born in the Country, pp. 127-129; Daniel, Standing at the Crossroads, pp. 139-141; Pete Daniel, Breaking the Land: The Transformation of Cotton, Tobacco, and Rice Cultures Since 1880 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986), chapters 1-3; United States Census of Agriculture, 1930, vol. 2, part 2, compiled from pp. 870-84, 470-75; Jacqueline Jones, The Dispossessed: America's Underclass From the Civil War to the Present, (New York: Basic Books, 1992): 82-83, 96.

7. For more on farm women's petty commodity production, see Lu Ann Jones, "Re-Visioning the Countryside: Southern Women, Rural Reform, and the Farm Economy in the Twentieth Century", Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1996.

8. For more on women as fieldworkers, see Melissa Walker and Rebecca Sharpless, "Farm Women, Work, and Identity in the American South, 1900-1940," unpublished paper under review, June 2002, copies available from authors.

9. Wilma Cope Williamson, interview by author, July 18, 1994, transcript in McClung Historical Collection, Lawson-McGhee Library, Knoxville, TN (hereafter MHC); Florence Cope Bush, Dorie: Woman of the Mountains (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992). Bush and Williamson were Delilah Woodruff's granddaughters.

10. Deola Mayberry Adams, Interviewed by Rebecca Sharpless, August 4, 1987, Gatesville, TX, Institute for Oral History, Baylor University, Waco, TX (hereafter IOH); Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow, p. 84, 87-88, 90.

11. Ryan Alexander Page, Our Way of Life: The Odyssey of a Farm Family (Fairfax: Wallace and Sons Printing, 1982), 17.

12. Ruth Irwin, Interviewed by Mrs. E.R. McKnight, April 1982, Mississippi, EHOHP.

13. Elizabeth Harden Lasseter, Interviewed by Milton E. Turner, May 8, 1976, Gadsden, AL, Special Collections Library at University of Alabama at Birmingham, hereafter UAB.

14. Rita Harwell, Interviewed by Opal Price, March 15, year unclear, ca. 1981, Georgallen, AL, EHOHP.

15. Alice Owens Caufield, Interviewed by Rebecca Sharpless, on eight occasions between Jan. 20 and April 21, 1993, Waco, TX, IOH; Avery R. Downing, Interviewed by James M. Sorelle and Thomas L. Charlton, August 23 and 25, 1983, Waco, Texas, Texas Collection, Baylor University, hereafter TC.

16. Alma Stewart Hale, Interviewed by Doni Van Ryswyk, on eight occasions from January 27 to March 28, 1988, in Waco, TX, TC.

17. Robert DeMent, Interviewed by Dan K. Utley, June 28, 1993 and July 1, 1993, Burton, TX, IOH.

18. Lessie Shiveley, Interviewed by Gary A. Jarrett, ca. 1972-74, Oral History of Appalachia, Marshall University, hereafter OHA).

19. Gavin Wright, Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy Since the Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986):228-31, 235; Danbom, Born in the Country, pp. 213-15.

20. Wright, Old South, New South, p. 241.

21. Danbom, Born in the Country, pp. 234-37; Pete Daniel, Lost Revolutions: The South in the 1950s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), chapters 2-4.

22. Wright, Old South, New South p. 248; Danbom, Born in the Country, p. 238.

23. Daniel, Lost Revolutions, pp. 40-58; Virginia McIntyre, Interviewed by Doris Ashley, May 3, 1982, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, EHOHP.

24. Mabel Love [pseudonym], Interviewed by Melissa Walker, July 19, 1994, Loudon, TN, MHC; Kline Cash, Interviewed by Melissa Walker, October 4, 1997, Chesnee, SC, notes in author's possession; Annie Maud Knittel Avis, Interviewed by Anne Radford Phillips, November 11 and December 5, 1991, Burton, TX, TC.

25. Ruth Hatchette McBrayer, Interviewed by Melissa Walker, August 20, 1998, Chesnee, SC, tapes and notes in author's possession.

26. Agnes Massirer, Interviewed by Lois E. Myers, April 11, 1997, Crawford, TX, IOH; Peggy Delozier Jones [pseudonym], Interviewed by Melissa Walker, July 21, 1994, Philadelphia, TN, MHC; Mary Evelyn Lane, Interviewed by Melissa Walker, August 8, 1994, Maryville, TN, MHC; Mildred Farrow, Interviewed by Pamela Grundy, July 24, 1987, Cragford, AL, Pamela Grundy Oral Histories (hereafter PGOH), Auburn University Archives and Special Collections.

27. Donnie Lee and Etta Lillian Hardy Carroll, Interviewed by Rebecca Sharpless, on seven occasions from September 21, 1990 to July 11, 1991, Waxahachie, TX, IOH; Kate Simmons [pseudonym], Interviewed by Melissa Walker, August 5, 1994, Loudon, TN, MHC.

28. Danbom, Born in the Country, pp. 254-56, 262-63.

29. Jones, The Dispossessed, Chapter Nine, especially pp. 286-87.

30. For more on the obstacles facing contemporary Southern farmers, see Peggy Barlett, American Dreams, Rural Realities: Farm Families in Crisis (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993). On black farmers' lawsuit against U.S.D.A., see contemporary news articles including: "Black Farmers Sue USDA Charging Bias," Jet, September 15, 1997, p. 16; Roger Thurow, "Black Farmers Hit the Road to Confront a `Cycle of Racism,'" Wall Street Journal, May 1, 1998, p. 1; Johnathan Burns, "Black Farmers, USDA Near Settlement," Macon Telegraph, December 1, 1998; Armando Villafranca, "Too Little, Too Late: Black Farmers' Discrimination Settlement May Not Ease Years of Pain," Houston Chronicle, p. A1; Michael Fletcher, "Black Farmers' Awards May Top $1 Billion," Washington Post, October 16, 2000.

31. Willis and Polly Woodham, Interviewed by Melissa Walker, April 30, 2002, transcript in author's possession. For more on Southern farmers who have adopted innovative crops or marketing strategies, see "An Olive Grove in Texas," The Economist, February 18, 1995, p. A26; "Turkeys are Taking Over Midlands Farms," The (Columbia, SC) State, November 25, 1999, p. B1; Cheryl Long, "Forging Family-to-Farmer Connections," Organic Gardening, May 2000, p. 43; Virginia Shepherd, "Down on This Farm The Times They Are A-Changin'," Smithsonian, July 2000, p. 64.