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Elizabeth Hill To Speak at Old State House Museum Sept. 12

August 10, 2012

Elizabeth Hill, the author of A Splendid Piece of Work: One Hundred Years of Arkansas’s Home Demonstration and Extension Homemakers Clubs, will discuss the history of Home Demonstration/Extension Homemakers work in Arkansas during the  Brown Bag Luncheon at noon September 12 at the Old State House Museum at Little Rock.

Elizabeth Hill

The North Little Rock resident is a graduate student in the    Department of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Near the end of her classwork toward a master’s degree in professional and technical writing, she took a history methods class under the instruction of Dr. Moira Maguire of the Department of History.

 While preparing to write a booklet on how to do local history, she was offered the opportunity to write the 100-year history of Arkansas’ Home Demonstration/Extension Homemakers work.

 While perusing the Internet, Elizabeth found in a professional journal an article by Texas Christian University at Fort Worth professor about the amazing treasure trove of Arkansas’ Cooperative Extension Service records housed in the National Archives Southwestern Branch at Fort Worth. After making arrangements with the archives, she and her husband, Richard, drove to Fort Worth twice during the summer of 2011 and took about 9,000 digital photographs of 50-page reports. She likens the experience to ironing all day on a too-low ironing board.

 Richard will be happy to tell anyone that was about 8,000 more pages than they could use—and Elizabeth will reluctantly agree!

 As she began transcribing the reports from her laptop to her computer—Elizabeth found a rich and wonderfully textured history of rural women in Arkansas and the professional home economists who worked with them. She discovered that the history was so much more than anyone could imagine. Although the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 funded the work during a time of peace and prosperity for American farm families, the agents led the women through devastating droughts, the Great Flood of 1927, and the Great Depression of the 1930s. By practicing the live-at-home philosophy—i.e., growing or making what their families needed—the women undoubtedly saved lives.

 Elizabeth’s favorite stories were of club members who took their newly found knowledge of nutrition and safe canning methods and provided hot school lunches for malnourished rural children during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. In 1928, one agent commented that after three months of eating the nutritious lunches, some of the children began to look more human.

 From April 2011 through April 2012, Elizabeth put her master’s thesis on hold while she wrote A Splendid Piece of Work: One Hundred Years of Arkansas’s Home Demonstration and Extension Homemakers Clubs. The book was ready just in time for the organization’s (Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council) centennial Gala on June 6, 2012, at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

Elizabeth’s presentation at the Old State House Museum is a continuation of the celebration of the 100-year anniversary of Home Demonstration/Extension Homemakers work in Arkansas.

The Old State House Museum is located in downtown Little Rock at 300 W. Markham St., between the Robinson Center Music Hall/Doubletree Hotel and the Peabody Hotel. On-street parking is at a premium and the closest paid parking structure for the public is at the Doubletree. The Old State House is within walking distance of the River Market, so Elizabeth’s presentation could be the centerpiece of a day’s outing.

Guests are invited to bring brown bag lunches. Beverages will be provided. There is no admission fee. Immediately after Elizabeth’s presentation, there will be a guided tour of the Old State House Museum especially for Extension Homemakers and their guests.

Additional information is available by emailing Eva Marie Pearson at epearson1960@yahoo.com.

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