This collection is comprised of oral history interviewes conducted for Voices of American Homemakers, a publication produced by the National Extension Homemakers Council (NEHC), now the National Association for Family and Community Education (NAFCE). The NEHC was established in 1936 to nationally organize local homemakers clubs and disseminate knowledge amongst homemakers and rural women. The project was completed with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Throughout the project members of the NEHC interviewed 219 women in 37 states to obtain perspectives on various aspects of homemaking as well as the NEHC as an organization. Copies of the transcripts, recordings, seminar proceedings, and Voices of American Homemakers were sent to land-grant universities in each state so that the matierals could be easily accessible. The records of the National Extension Homemakers Council consist of books, oral history tapes and trascripts, and seminar proceedings created between 1981 and 1985. Topics covered in the collection include child-rearing, household chorse, education, and the history of the NEHC.
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2.50 Linear Feet
The records of the National Extension Homemakers Council consists of books, oral history tapes and transcripts, and seminar proceedings created between 1981 and 1985. The materials were created during an oral history project which endeavored to capture primary source material representing the lives of American homemakers. The oral histories recorded for this project examine the lives of women who participated in the National Extension Homemakers Council (NEHC) as well as local homemakers clubs. Topics covered include child-rearing, household chores, education, and the history of the NEHC.
The National Extension Homemakers Council (NEHC), now the National Association for Family and Community Education (NAFCE), was established in 1936 to nationally organize homemakers clubs and cooperative extension work. Cooperative extension work began under the Morril Acts of 1862 and 1890, which provided funding for the establishment of land-grant universities. These universities were created with the aim of educating the state's population in the areas of agriculture and mechanics, as well as the humanities and liberal arts. In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act was created to establish a cooperative service between the US Department of Agriculture and these land grant colleges to provide demonstrations and education to rural populations not able to attend land-grant universities.
Home demonstration in the field of home economics was brought to rural women across America through the cooperative extension service. Specialists and state home demonstration agents would visit local homemakers clubs to teach women about homemaking, with the goal of making household chores less time and energy consuming. Before home demonstration work, knowledge of homemakeing was passed down through generations of women with new technologies and methods slowly integrating into communities. Travel and communication between rural communities was often limited, as was socialization. Local homemakers clubs developed around the purpose of home demonstration work, but these clubs also provided much needed socialization and relaxation for rural women. After a period of time the cooperative extension service started to develop community leaders who would receive more in-depth training that they could bring back to their local clubs, thus further disseminating knowledge. As more local homemakers clubs were established, county, district, and state councils were formed to provide leadership and communication.
By the early 1930s state-wide councils felt the need for a national organization. The presidents of twelve state Extension Homemakers organizations met in Columbus, Ohio in September, 1935. A committee was created to draft a constitution which would be submitted to the state-wide councils before the next meeting. In June, 1936 members from the state councils met at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and established the National Home Demonstration Council. In 1963 the organization's name was changed to the National Extension Homemakers Council. The council underwent another name change in 1992, calling themselves the National Association for Family and Community Education (NAFCE).
In 1981 the NEHC began to plan ways to celebrate the organization's upcoming fiftieth anniversary in 1986. Eleanor Arnold was leading a successful oral history project in Indiana at the time, so the board of directors asked her to develop a similar program for the NEHC. Two grants provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities financially supported the planning an implementation of the oral history project. The project endeavored to document homemakers lives, provide primary source material for research, make homemakers aware of their value, and disseminate material so that the project would have lasting value. Interviewers from each state were selected to attend a two-day training workshop. The interviewers then made one oral history interview to be critiqued. After these preparations, the interviewers performed approximately five oral history interviews using a prepared list of topics that touched upon women's lives and homemaking. Some states only had one oral history interview while others had up to twelve. At its completion, the project interviewed 219 women in 37 states, ranging from age 27 to 100.
The oral history project was completed in multiple stages. In 1983, the NEHC held a seminar on the role of women as homemakers where six papers focusing on various aspects of homemaking were presented. The 1984 NEHC conference featured a thirty minute program using the voices and photographs of women interviewed for the project. The National Endowment for the Humanities provided funding for a copy of the program to be sent to each state. The book, Voices of American Homemakers, was published in 1985. Following the completion of the project, the NEHC sent copies of all of the tapes, transcripts, the book, as well as a copy of the seminar proceedings to every state.
This collection is organized into three series
Gift of Eleanor Arnold from the National Extension Homemakers Council on November 7, 1985.