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"Modernity" and U.S. farm women's poultry operations. Jane Adams,Southern Illinois University

Poultry was one of the first agricultural products to be effectively industrialized, a process that is now occurring with hogs. Many fruits and vegetables are also produced under factory conditions. These conditions require a high degree of control over natural processes (see Mann and Dickenson 1978); their epistemological foundations lie in Fordist and Leninist theories of development and social order that developed in the first decades of the 20th century, in the cultural movement labeled "modernism."

Farmers contributed significantly to this modernizing project; however, they resisted the full realization of its organizational forms. Most farm women and men sought labor saving devices available only with electricity and sizeable cash incomes. (22) They sought the comforts, conveniences, and cultural forms of the modern world, typified in the new suburbs and made widely known through mass-oriented media. Within the existing economic order, these desires could only be met through stepping on the technological treadmill that would render the vast majority of farmers redundant.

A century after rural women lost the ability through spinning and weaving to contribute to the domestic economy, they lost their ability to contribute through raising chickens and managing small home dairies. This time they had little possibility of developing an alternative productive enterprise. Many farm women entered th
e wage labor force, while others became assistants to their husband, the farmer.
"Modernity" and U.S. farm women's poultry operations: farm women nourish the industrializing cities 1880-1940. Paper presented at the international conference, The Chicken: Its Biological, Social, Cultural, and Industrial History: From Neolithic Middens to McNuggets. May 17-19, 2002, Yale University, Program in Agrarian Studies. © Jane Adams 2002

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A barrel coop, recommended for poultry raisers in an 1884 advice book (Periam, Jonathan, 1984 [1884] The Home & Farm Manual. New York: Greenwich House).

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Wallace S. Moreland, 1943. A Practical Guide to Successful Farming. Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing Co.