Thursday, November 10, 2011

Event: “Cultivating the Country’s Best Crop: Developing Youth Through 4-H in the 20th Century”


“Cultivating the Country’s Best Crop: Developing Youth Through 4-H in the 20th Century”
Amrys Williams, 2011 Fellow in the History of Home Economics
Monday, 14 November 2011
at 4pm in Cornell University's Mann Library, Room 102

In a Nov. 14th lecture at Mann Library, Amrys Williams, PhD candidate in the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin and the 2011 Fellow in the History of Economics at the College of Human Ecology, will present a look at the history of 4-H clubs and their relationship to development of rural American society and culture in the 20th century.

4-H clubs—the youth phase of agricultural and home economics extension work—were central to the USDA’s program for rural modernization in the early decades of the 20th century. By giving farm boys and girls the opportunity to socialize, learn new skills through hands-on activities, and contribute financially to their families’ livings, club work aimed to spread better farm and home practices while keeping rural youth on the farm. But cultivating “the country’s best crop,” as these young people were often described, was a matter of culture as well as agriculture, and 4-H club work sought to revitalize rural society alongside rural livelihoods. Envisioning the concurrent development of children’s heads, hearts, hands, and health, 4-H was emblematic of the Country Life Movement’s attempts to articulate a distinctly rural vision of modern living, one that would embrace scientific methods in ways adapted to rural needs and values. The biological metaphor of development—of crops, children, communities, and civilization—was central to these efforts. 4-H’s work with rural youth in rural places illuminates a strand of thinking about development that relied on growth, guidance, and nurture to cultivate modernity on rural terms.

A reception will follow the talk. Free and open to the public. For more information, please visit or call 255-5406.

Event sponsored by the College of Human Ecology and Albert R. Mann Library

Eveline Ferretti
Public Programs Administrator
Albert R. Mann Library
Cornell University

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