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February 13, 2012

Posted by Jettie K. Williams

The African-American Experience With The Arkansas Extension Homemakers Clubs  –     Yesterday – Today

The Arkansas Extension Home Demonstration work began in 1912, out of a need for education. This need for the education of women to teach their families and their communities continues today. To strive for the good of mankind and strive for the excellence of the human character, they were to provide for their families and help others to provide for their families. These demonstrations would not only help their families but will help all ofAmerica.

The Home Demonstration agents and members of 1912 lighted the candle to show others the way through two wars, a great depression, through tremendous change, and stable and unstable economic conditions. The underlying common purpose has been and will continue to be to educate individuals.

In 1929 the Home Demonstration work began to grow. The 1930’s brought even more changes and projects . . . electricity and healthier babies. Home Demonstration enrollment inArkansaswent from 14,195 members and 666 clubs in 1930, to 63,163 members in 1940, with 2135 clubs.

In 1920 Mrs. Alice Winston was sent to Little River County to be our first Home Demonstration Agent.

In the 1940’s, the cruel war was raging and we needed to raise money. The Home Demonstration clubs state-wide made cotton mattress to sell. The government provided the cotton and the ticking and we made the mattresses. We made 357, 517, cotton mattresses and comforters. We raised $31,000 by selling war bonds. Through war bond drives, and with the help of the American Red Cross, 21,826 garments were made for children in war-torn areas. Mary Harris and Gertie Griffin were in that number helping to make the mattresses and the garments. In 1942, 40% of the rural women were members of the Home Demonstration clubs.

The 1950’s brought new emphasis in club work. Rural community improvement, roadside parks, new homes and mail boxes improvements to name a few.

 The History of The Willing Workers Home Demonstration Club                                                 

Mrs. Mary Harris, first president of Willing Workers Home Demon-stration Club, Little River County, in 1923.

Mrs. Mary Harris, first President of Willing Workers   Home Demonstration Club, Little River County, in 1923.

In 1920 Mrs. Alice Winston was sent to Little River County as our HomeDemonstration agent. A lot of changes came about. In the nextfew years, in the home – cars, skirts inched up, oil boom and wealth. Women gained the right to vote and radios appeared in homes. Dress styles changed; hair “cuts” went to bobbed or shingled; nail polish and a lot of beads also appeared.

In 1923 we organized The Willing Workers Home Demonstration Club at the Rosenwald School House.  Under Alice Winston’s leadership, we made bed mattresses for each family in the community with cotton and ticking provided by the government.  We learned to can all kinds of fruits and vegetables as well as meats and chickens.  Several homemakers bought pressure cookers for the processing of meat, fruit and vegetables.

In the 1970’s the two organizations of Home Demonstration/Extension Homemaker Clubs merged into the state organization called Arkansas Extension Homemakers, Inc.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Cherisse Jones-Branch permalink
    June 26, 2012 4:29 PM

    Hi, I’m working on a piece on black home demonstration agents in Arkansas. I’d love to know more about Mrs. Mary Harris and anything else you’d be willing to share. Please feel free to contact me at Thanks! Cherisse Jones-Branch

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