Home Demonstration Clubs were an important part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture established in the early twentieth century, providing work for men and home demonstration work for women. It taught women improved methods for accomplishing their household responsibilities and better their families’ living conditions. And, beyond that the clubs became sources of education. It dealt with labor-saving devices and educational activities such as gardening, canning, nutrition and sewing.
The Home Demonstration Club was very popular here in our community…particularly during the Great Depression. In 1934 they began a tradition of providing thousands of jars and cans of vegetables to the struggling Arkansas Children’s Home and Hospital.
Mattress-making from home-grown cotton became a major project among club members during this time. Maybe some readers like me can remember the building located across the road from Clark & Bailey (company store) where the club members met to make the mattresses.
Making the mattresses was a way to use up surplus cotton, as profitable cotton prices had crashed along with the stock market at the beginning of the Depression. By 1940 more than 137,000 mattresses had been made with the average cost of each family…$0.28 for needles, twine and thread.
Change brought on by the war, harmed the Home Demonstration Clubs in ways in which it would never recover. Thousands of families left their Arkansas farms during World War II. Many never returned, and emphasis changed to focus on younger women, included so called “GI” wives. And, in 1965 the home demonstration work ended.
Below shoes the members of our Jenny Lind Home Demonstration Club dated 1938.