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Linoleum, Better Babies, and the Modern Farm Woman, 1890-1930

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A study of expert advice offered by the domestic economy movement between the 1890s and the 1920s, and the role of rural women in farm reform

About the Author

Marilyn Irvin Holt is the author of The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America, available in a Bison Books edition.


Holt (The Orphan Trains, LJ 8/92) examines the impact of progressive reformers on the lives of rural women at the turn of the century. Progress, according to outside "experts," often included a vision of women as domestic managers. It presumed an optimistic belief in science-based strategies for homemaking. The legacy of this movement remains today in such institutions as home extension and 4-H. Holt shows that while the use of linoleum in farm kitchens didn't necessarily create better babies, the optimistic outlook of progressive reformers did emphasize the partnership of farm women with their farmer husbands and stabilized rural families. This well-documented work will appeal to those interested in women's studies and sociology but is most appropriate for research collections supporting study in agricultural history and the progressive movement.‘Susan E. Parker, Harvard Law Sch. Lib.

"Holt's study provides a readable history of developments in a significant part of rural women's lives--the domestic-economy movement--as well as treating topics that allow better understanding of rural life in general."--Historian "Well documented."--Library Journal "[Holt] deserves particular credit for her attention to non-Anglo participants, who have often been neglected in similar studies. She also merits praise for the inclusion of many photographs, several of which illustrate the endeavors of non-white women."--Journal of American History

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