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Putting the Barn Before the HouseWomen and Family Farming in Early Twentieth-Century New York$
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Grey Osterud

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450280

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450280.001.0001

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Putting the Barn Before the House

Putting the Barn Before the House

(p.27) 1 Putting the Barn Before the House
Putting the Barn Before the House

Grey Osterud

Cornell University Press

This chapter presents the narrative of an impoverished immigrant woman who farmed in the Nanticoke Valley and juxtaposes it with the short story, “The Revolt of Mother” (1890), by Mary Wilkins Freeman. “The Revolt of Mother” defined the predicament of farm women in the minds of contemporary urban Americans. Freeman recognized that her story's portrait of gender relations, as shown in the interaction between husband and wife, was self-contradictory. Rural women, for their part, did not see power within marriage as a zero-sum game. The narrative of the immigrant woman, Josie Sulich Kuzma, articulates a very different perspective from that of “Mother” in the Wilkins Freeman story. For Kuzma, the most painful aspect of life on the farm was neither the physical labor it required nor the fact that poverty compelled her to live in a shack, but rather the social isolation that arose from the constant demands of farm work and the family's lack of decent clothing.

Keywords:   rural women, Nanticoke Valley, The Revolt of Mother, Mary Wilkins Freeman, farm women, gender relations, power, marriage, poverty

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