The Souvenir of Western Women/The Woman on the Farm
The Woman on the Farm
By MRS. CLARA HUMASON WALDO
WHILE the tendency of the city is to destroy the simplicity of home life, and to substitute for it the apartment house, the flat, the hotel, the club, and innumerable cheap amusements away from the home, it is quite the contrary in the country. Never before was the woman on the farm striving so hard to make her home attractive as now. She reaches out to draw from art and science all of the beautiful that she can afford, and such inventions and conveniences as will shorten and ease her labor, and so give her more leisure for self-culture.
The woman on the farm is being taught, largely by the Grange, that she is a valuable citizen, and has a leading part to play on the stage of life. So she respects herself and her work more than she did, even a decade ago. She dresses better, practices physical culture, takes a little more rest; reads more magazines and books: makes herself a better companion to her children and husband; takes more outings to coast and mountains; camps with her family at the State Fair and the Chautauqua Assembly, and is in general a much more cheerful and interesting woman than she has ever been. "With our correspondence schools; with modern languages taught by phonograph: with art reproductions for 1 cent apiece; with the traveling library; with current literature at club rates; with lecture courses and farmers' institutes; with stereopticon views of every famous object on the earth's surface; with graphophone records of every fine singer, actor, speaker and orchestra, the woman on the farm is not so far lacking in general information as one may suppose. Much of culture and society polish is denied her by reason of her secluded life. But there is a compensation in the universe which gives us on one side what we have missed on another. So the woman of the farm, while lacking much in "style" and society small talk, has a comprehensive and practical knowledge of many things. She is an independent and all-around serviceable person. Indoors or out she can "lend a hand" where there is need. If her husband falls ill or dies, she can manage the business of the farm and bring up the children. Husband and wife on the farm are very close partners in all that concerns their welfare. It is the ideal family life of loving co-operation. To all the members of these ideal rural and suburban homes, the sweet home interests come first. Everything circles around home and mother. There are few distractions, and no unwholesome dissipations to draw the children out at night from their mother's influence. To prove the high character of our country women, and their devotion to love and duty, we have only to point out the many great men and women who have gone forth from these farm homes, to shine in every sort of high position, and to reflect honor upon their bringing up.
The rural free delivery of mail and the rural telephone are great boons to the isolated woman on the farm. She is wishing with all her heart for an enlarged parcels post, so that she may buy more freely from the city merchants.
In the matter of money, the woman on the farm is more independent than her city sister. She earns her pin money by selling poultry, butter and eggs; picking wild berries; making jelly and jam for the city people who go away for the summer; taking summer boarders; picking hops; peeling the chittim bark, and in various other ways. Some do literary and art work. One Oregon girl bachelor, being weary with working for others at housework and sewing, now lives alone, on a few acres of land, and depends upon the revenue from two cows, one sow, and a hundred hens. Two women in the Willamette Valley do all their work on a large farm, except the plowing. They raise registered cattle and sheep, and have a few acres in native huckleberries. One old lady gets her pin money from three acres in cherry trees and currant bushes.
Leadership among women asserts itself in the country as in towns, and the church and Sunday school work goes on much the same. All social gatherings are difficult to keep up because of the scattered homes. For this reason a woman's club does not flourish in the country, nor do literary societies and reading circles. Not many women have a driving horse at their disposal, to go at will, without interfering with the farm work. But wherever a Grange is established no lack is felt in social or educational matters. The Patrons of Husbandry is an ideal order for the country people, including as it does the whole family from the 14-year-old child to the great grand parents. When it was organized, about forty years ago, Miss Carrie Hall, of Boston, Mass., earnestly urged the seven founders of the new order to admit women on an equality with men, and it was done. That was a bold and progressive step for that day, and the women of the Grange have ever held Miss Hall in grateful memory for her courage.
The Grange upholds woman's suffrage in theory and in practice. Every honor, distinction, and office is open to the woman who, by her character and her ability, can win her way. Thus the women of the Grange learn to debate and discuss all practical and intellectual subjects side by side with the men. Women of the Grange are interested in the same things that call forth the efforts of local woman's clubs. They see that cemeteries, school, and church grounds are kept in neat order, and that trees, vines, and shrubs are set out wherever they can be protected and watered. They inspect the sanitary conditions and the water supply of their district schoolhouses. Matrons of Husbandry are in. the advance in urging the addition of nature studies, school gardens, and the work bench to our country school system. They wish especially to see their children educated towards the farm and not away from it. The women of the Grange cultivate the true spirit of hospitality. All who come enter into and share their family life. Neighborly kindness to the sick and sorrowing is abundantly expressed in farm communities. While not a trained nurse, the modern woman on the farm informs herself as to the approved methods of caring for the sick and relieving accidental hurts. In the Grange women learn to co-operate in many ways, and the lesson is broadening and beautifying their lives and homes.
All honor to this true woman upon the farm as she sits enthroned among her jewels—the sturdy sons and daughters who will rise up and call her blessed!
"Yes, after the strife and weary tussle
When life is done, and she lies at rest,
The nation's brain and heart and muscle,
Her sons and daughters shall call her blest.
"And I think the sweetest joy of heaven,
The rarest bliss of eternal life.
And the fairest crown of all, will be given
Unto the wayworn farmer's wife."