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Title:Feminism from the farm: rural and farm women’s authorship and the future of rural America, 1920-1929
Author(s):Irwin, Katie L
Director of Research:Finnegan, Cara A
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Finnegan, Cara A
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Murphy, John M; Cisneros, Josue D; Russell, Lindsay R
Department / Program:Communication
Discipline:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Rural
Farm
Feminism
Rhetoric
Agrarianism
Agency
Abstract:This dissertation examines the rhetoric of predominantly white U.S. rural and farm women from the 1920s and argues that their public arguments crafted a particular idea of feminism that is both grounded in and enabled by their experiences as rural and farm women. Turning to women’s rhetorical practices as they manifested in two major print and public speaking contexts — The Farmer’s Wife magazine and the first national conference of rural and farm women — this study considers how women’s interactions in those spaces enabled certain modes of agency and rhetorical expression. As rural and farm women embraced existing and emerging opportunities for personal and public engagement, they embraced also the possibility that their rhetorical labor could transform understandings of their identities, relationships, and individual and collective futures. This dissertation understands rural and farm women’s written and spoken words by situating them in the broader context of how public figures and private citizens talked about rural and farm people throughout the history of the republic. While the idea of agrarianism held up rural people, especially farmers, as ideal in the American imaginary, post-World War I economic uncertainties and material realities generated a shift in how the public talked about its rural and farm people. The chapters in this project analyze how rural and farm women talked about their identities, relationships, and responsibilities during this era of uncertainty and transformation. In The Farmer’s Wife, rural and farm women’s letters interrupted gendered notions of rural womanhood by dissociating the woman from the home and repositioning her in and beyond the fields. At the national conference, rural and farm women’s conversations functioned as instances of consciousness raising that enabled the women to achieve an improved perspective of themselves and rural and farm women across the country. As the conference participants discussed issues including economics and community work, they developed an adapted agrarianism that imagined women as central to the future of rural and farm life. As rural and farm women interacted with each other in print and in public speaking contexts, their rhetorical strategies of dissociation, phantasia, and consciousness raising enabled the women to see, through language, who they were and who they could become. Overall, the project forwards the notion of rhetorical agency as authorship: the process of crafting with language and the product of that craft. The forms of that authorship vary across the chapters, but overall, the women’s rhetorics function to authorize the women who invented them, and the women who would follow them, as subjects whose knowledge and experiences position them to make arguments about the future of rural America.
Issue Date:2017-07-11
Type:Text
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/99084
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Katie Irwin
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-03-02
Date Deposited:2017-08


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