By William Dean Howells
Centering on a clash among a self-made millionaire and an idealistic reformer in turn-of-the-twentieth-century ny, A threat of latest Fortunes insightfully renders the complexities of the yankee adventure at a time of serious social and monetary upheaval and transformation. In its depiction of wealth, poverty, and long island urban existence, it is still a strikingly modern work.
Reproduced this is the authoritative Indiana college Press version edited and annotated through David J. Nordloh, with complete scholarly remark and wide textual gear.
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It also points to the relative absence of rural women from ofﬁcial discussions about agrarianism in the period, as well as from subsequent historical and theoretical studies that treat women more broadly. Rural sociologists have lamented, and rightly so, the erasure of farm women from rural history,7 and the farm woman, conceptually at least, could not seem further removed from many of the progressive tendencies associated with women and American modernity. The development of urban social services, the ﬁght for woman suffrage, the birth control movement, the 24 A NEW HEARTLAND drive to limit child labor—all have been major topics of interest for feminist histories, but all revolved around the reformist energies of women who were primarily from a city-based middle class.
38 34 A NEW HEARTLAND But this hardly means that farm women were felt to be insigniﬁcant. On the contrary, like the land itself, the farmer’s wife was understood as an essential, if often unacknowledged, component of the farm, a cornerstone of its culture and economy, so much so that her labor and her roles could be merely assumed rather than considered. )39 Moreover, her absent presence was clearly manifested within the dynamics of both race and class that undergirded discussions about agrarianism.
On one hand, for instance, for women both on and off the farm, domestic tasks could be recuperated as “real” labor through the era’s emphasis on home economics, including the application of management principles to housework and child care and the elevation of efﬁciency in the home as an ideal. )5 On the other hand, such emphases generally reasserted the gendered division of labor typical of the middle classes and widely portrayed as normative: in the words of Mrs. ”6 But farm women, who selfidentiﬁed as producers as well as consumers and who often worked in the barn or the ﬁelds as well as the kitchen, were marginalized by this bourgeois investment in separate spheres, which persisted imagistically despite women’s advances in education and the professions.
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