|U.S. Food Administration poster |
urging Americans to save wheat for soldiers
A small army of women stepped forward to help the government with this difficult task. Since the late 19th century, (white, middle-class) women had been working to establish domestic science as a profession; they had been successful in starting domestic science and home economics departments at colleges and universities (including the New York State College of Agriculture in Ithaca) and sending their graduates forth into the world to work in high schools, settlement houses, and extension services. For many of them, World War I must have seemed like a godsend: finally they would have the opportunity to demonstrate to the wider world just how important their discipline was. The work that women did in the home affected their families, communities, and indeed, the nation—and it was essential that they do it right.
|Cornell Home Economics Faculty, 1914. |
Bertha Titsworth is standing at far right.
All of this information was distributed in cookbooks, pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers, and at schools, women’s clubs, and county fairs. The Plattsburgh newspapers regularly published lists of new material on food conservation received by local public libraries, and ran columns of “Victory Menus.” Women in Clinton County also had many opportunities to learn directly from food experts. In July 1917, the Plattsburgh Sentinel reported that “women representing different sections of the county as well as the Grange and various women’s clubs” met at the Farm Bureau office in Plattsburgh “for the purpose of organizing a woman’s branch in farm bureau work as the result of the national campaign for thrift and economy.” Bertha E. Titsworth, extension specialist and faculty member from the department of home economics at Cornell, helped the women to develop the plan. Clinton County would be divided into 15 communities, with four demonstrations held each week. Meetings would be held in “Grange halls, churches or other public buildings,” and the demonstrations of cooking and preserving were to be done by a “trained lady specialist” provided by the state.
|Advertisement from the Plattsburgh|
Daily Republican for a bread mixer and
Not surprisingly, during the summer of 1917, most of the work being done related to methods of preserving fruits and vegetables for the winter. In our next post, we’ll look more at the canning craze of 1917-18 and the related war garden movement.
“Food Conservation: Circular Letter Issued by the Conservation Department of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs,” Plattsburgh Sentinel, May 19, 1917.
“Food Saving in N.Y. State,” Plattsburgh Daily Republican, June 22, 1917.
“Women in Farm Bureau Work: County Organization Perfected at Meeting in This City,” Plattsburgh Sentinel, July 3, 1917.
“Women’s Aid in Food Campaign Now Being Sought in Every County of the State of New York,” Plattsburgh Daily Republican, August 14, 1917.
“Class in Cookery at Young Women’s League,” Plattsburgh Sentinel, October 9, 1917.
“Public Library Notes: New Books on Household Organization and Food Conservation,” Plattsburgh Sentinel, February 12, 1918.