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“I Like to Hoe My Own Row”


A Saskatchewan Farm Woman’s Notions about Work and Womanhood
during the Great Depression

cristine georgina bye

I expect you are a busy mother. I know for I have passed through it and been
doing my share for fifty years and am getting so I had rather idle a little now. I
am told by some that I never seem to rest. Well, I must say I like to hoe my own
row and keep going as long as the Lord gives me strength.
Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, December 5, 1935 1

Kate Graves was my great-grandmother. She was sixty-three years old when
economic depression and drought struck prairie Canada in 1929. Over the next
twelve years she dispatched more than 150 letters to her fourth-eldest daughter,
my grandmother Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, from her rural community
in the heart of the Saskatchewan Dust Bowl. The central theme of these letters
was work. Despite her age, Kate spent seventeen-hour days churning butter,
raising chickens, tending children, cooking, cleaning, canning, sewing, and
gardening. Her letters reveal the vital contribution she made to her family and
the family farm in the 1930s. But more importantly, they tell us how she saw her
role and how her perceptions helped to shape her life and the lives of other fe-
male family members. My great-grandmother used her letters to impart her
ideas about farm women’s proper work roles and to affirm her identity as a
“good” farm woman. She tried to empower herself by policing gender bound-
aries in her family and working hard in the domestic sphere. The irony was
that, rather than enhancing women’s power, Kate’s idealized notions helped to
disempower her and future generations of western Canadian farm women.
Seventy-five years later most prairie farm families—including my immediate
family—would continue to value “men’s work” more than “women’s work”
and to grant men more resources and power than women.
Although literature on American farm women in the Great Depression
abounds, we know very little about rural women in prairie Canada in the

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1930s.2 Information on gender ideals—what they were and how they influ-
enced women’s everyday lives—is particularly sketchy.3 A number of studies
focus on prairie women who voiced their opinions in the rural press or played
prominent roles in agricultural and political organizations. These studies de-
pict 1930s farm women as grassroots feminists who complained about male
domination in society and the home, sought greater recognition for their
work, and expressed solidarity with their overworked, undervalued peers.4 A
case study of Kate Graves, based mainly on the letters she bequeathed to her fe-
male descendants, helps to qualify this impression of prairie farm women.
Kate speaks for the vast majority of prairie Canada’s 390,000 rural women—
women who quietly acquiesced to the gender status quo and, in the process,
helped to perpetuate gender inequalities in prairie society.5 Kate’s letters shed
light on the role prairie women have played in reinforcing assumptions that
men are more entitled to own and operate farms than women, that they are
“farmers” and women are subordinate “homemakers” or “helpers.” Kate was
proud of the work she and female relatives performed in the 1930s, but she con-
tinued to see men as the family’s chief breadwinners and decision-makers. This
is not to say Kate and other women did not experience tension around male
hegemony. Rather, Kate’s letters suggest that they found complicated ways of
dealing with it that protected farm men’s and women’s sense of respectability.
This study is useful for other reasons as well. It provides a starting point for
comparisons of rural American and Canadian women’s experiences during the
Depression. Political and other differences between the two countries likely
shaped women’s work lives in different ways. Residents of the Canadian prai-
ries and the northern Plains states experienced similar drought and depressed
economic conditions, but women on the American side of the border had ac-
cess to far more state resources than women on the Canadian side.6 American
New Dealers offered rural women everything from electricity, employment,
and pressure cookers to advice from home demonstration agents on garden-
ing, canning, sewing, and organizing women’s clubs.7 Canadian policymakers
showed nowhere near the same concern for rural women’s needs. Women’s la-
bor was essential to hard-hit farm families in both countries during the De-
pression—but did lack of external help and other factors make Canadian
women’s contributions that much more significant? Before we can begin to an-
swer such questions, we need to learn more about the experiences of Canadian
women like Kate Graves.
The study also provides a rare look at farm women’s work from the perspec-
tive of an older woman. Kate was in her sixties and seventies in the 1930s, and
regularly mentioned her age in her letters. It is important to explore the ways
in which her age influenced her work, power, and self-perceptions. Kate con-

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structed an image of herself as an “old” mother and grandmother who, though


sometimes tired, was as sprightly and hardworking as ever. Her work ethic
seemed even stronger in the 1930s than earlier. There is little indication that
Kate’s continued productivity increased her personal power. But her age gave
her access to pension income she could call her own, and this affected male-
female power dynamics in her household in interesting ways.

background
Kate Graves was born Kate Edwards in Quebec (then Canada East) in 1866, to
English-speaking, Presbyterian parents who seem to have imbibed elements of
the urban, middle-class doctrine of domesticity.8 Kate’s father, a land surveyor
and farmer, expected his daughter to be “a proper lady.” Family members
would later describe Kate as well-read, well-spoken, and “refined.” 9 Her gen-
teel upbringing exempted her from work in her parents’ maple sugar bush,
barns, and fields but did not preclude work in the house, garden, and buttery.
No doubt Kate’s ethnicity, religion, and sense of class influenced her ideas
about proper gender behavior. The historical literature abounds with “com-
peting definitions” of rural womanhood; farm families in a variety of North
American settings have adjusted— or rejected—idealized notions of domes-
ticity to suit their particular circumstances and values.10 Kate’s family chose
not to equate femininity with leisure. They expected her to work, but not be-
yond a certain point in the yard.
Kate married small-scale foundry owner and blacksmith Tom Graves in
1885, and together they raised seven daughters and two sons, one of them a fos-
ter son. In 1914 Kate, Tom, and most of their children moved to a homestead
in southwestern Saskatchewan near the future town of McCord, about thirty
miles north of the Canadian-American border. The Graves were what western
Canadian historian Gerald Friesen would call a “respectable” farm family.11
They operated an average-sized, 375-acre grain farm, enjoyed a moderate in-
come that allowed them to hire seasonal workers, belonged to Saskatchewan’s
British-Canadian, Protestant majority, and held respected positions in the
community’s church, school, and agricultural organizations. In 1921 Kate’s
daughter Georgina moved to Fleet, in east-central Alberta, to teach school. She
married homesteader Bert Griffiths a year later and went on to bear three sons
and three daughters. Her youngest child, my mother Muriel, arrived in 1934.
In Saskatchewan, Kate’s foster son and five of her daughters—Mary, Jessie,
Katey, Ethel, and Emma—settled within a twenty-one mile radius of Kate and
Tom’s farm. The 1930s found the couple sharing their home with their son
Edward, his wife Dorothy, and various grandchildren.

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No part of Canada or the world suffered more during the Great Depression
than the province of Saskatchewan. Drought, plunging wheat prices, and the
prolonged contraction of the Canadian economy conflated to almost destroy
Saskatchewan society. Between 1928 –29 and 1933, the province’s per-capita in-
come fell by 72 percent, compared with 42 percent for Canada as a whole. In
1931 provincial net farm income stood at minus $34 million, and the average
farm operator’s net income was minus $255. Saskatchewan farmers, who were
largely dependent on wheat, saw per-bushel prices plummet to a four-hun-
dred-year, worldwide low. Hot winds, dust storms, and insect hordes de-
stroyed many farm families’ crops and gardens for six, seven, or more years in
a row. Saskatchewan’s environmental and economic problems had enormous
social consequences. Many residents were hungry, poorly clothed, ill-housed,
and in poor health. By 1937, two-thirds of the rural population was on govern-
ment relief. The province’s 1929 to 1938 relief expenditures (financed mainly by
the federal government) exceeded $153 million. Although much lower than the
figures for neighboring Montana and North Dakota, this was three times the
Canadian average. For residents over seventy, relief often came in the guise of
the federal-provincial old-age pension program; the number of Saskatchewan
pension applicants more than tripled over the course of the decade. Thou-
sands of families abandoned their farms for new homes in northern Saskat-
chewan or other parts of Canada. At least one-fifth of the population left the
province over the course of the decade. Saskatchewan’s fortunes did not begin
to brighten until the drought lifted in 1938. Crop yields improved, but grain
prices and farm incomes remained low. It was not until farmers reaped a
bumper crop in 1942 and wheat prices rose in 1943 that the province could gen-
uinely say the Great Depression was over.12
The Graves family’s experiences with crop failure, poverty, illness, and fam-
ily dislocation mirrored those of many Saskatchewan families. Drought and
other environmental hazards hit Kate’s region particularly hard. Wheat yields
in Kate’s municipality dropped from twenty-five bushels an acre in 1928 to five
bushels in 1929, and stayed low for most of the decade. Farmers harvested
no wheat at all in 1931 and 1937.13 “Don’t seem like it can rain here,” Kate wrote
Georgina on June 11, 1937. “Not one bit of anything. No wheat on the field.” 14
Some years, virtually every farm family in the area required government help.
Kate’s letters and Rural Municipality of Mankota relief records show she and
Tom received relief each year between 1930 and 1938. Relief records also list the
families of five of her children.15 Kate and Tom applied for the old-age pension
in 1937, when they were seventy-one and seventy-three, respectively. Kate
wrote in June of that year that a pension administrator was considering her ap-
plication. “I hope he hurries a little. Times are hard.” 16 Several family mem-

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bers developed nutritional deficiency diseases and other ailments, often post-
poning necessary medical treatment for lack of money. The most tragic case
was Kate’s eldest daughter Mary, who died of tuberculosis in 1933. Kate’s region
lost more than 22 percent of its farm population. The number of farms in the
Rural Municipality of Mankota fell from 478 in 1931 to 383 in 1941—the second
highest decrease out of eight municipalities in the area.17 Kate’s son Edward
and his young family joined the exodus, spending 1937 to 1939 in Quebec. Kate
and Tom hung on, however, and were still living on the farm when Kate died
in 1941 at the age of seventy-five.

true providers
Kate’s farm probably would not have survived the Depression without her
work in the house and yard. Her ability to feed and clothe her family with very
few resources and to offset lost wheat income with dairy and poultry sales
made her the farm’s economic mainstay. The same can be said of countless
other Saskatchewan women. Drought hampered women in some districts, but
many were able to maintain or increase their dairy, poultry, and garden out-
put. Women’s dairy and poultry-related work allowed families in parts of the
province to meet almost half their own food needs, and made a substantial
contribution to the province’s overall economy. The percentage of agricultural
revenue from dairy and poultry products rose from 4 percent in 1928 to 23 per-
cent in 1937. Meanwhile, the percentage of revenue from wheat—which Sas-
katchewan society and the Graves family associated with men—fell from
80 percent to 33 percent.18
Farm women did not receive much for their labor. At one point Kate re-
ported that eggs were selling for four cents a dozen and butter for seven cents
a pound. But women and their families were grateful for the income nonethe-
less. Time and again, prairie people who lived through the Depression say that
farms and families could not have survived without the proceeds of their but-
ter, poultry, and cream. Rural society touted men as farmers and breadwinners
in the 1930s, but often it was women who kept their families on the land.19
Kate herself recognized the value of her work. She said she and Tom felt for-
tunate to have eggs and butter to “swap” for groceries, and she believed that “if
we could get a fair price for eggs and butter we would need no relief.” Kate’s in-
come, small as it was, allowed her to buy items not covered by the family’s re-
lief allotment. It likely financed the wages she paid her domestic helpers and
enabled her to invest in chickens and milk cows. “I own one cow, a fine Hol-
stein,” she told Georgina proudly. “Have always owned her.” Kate also claimed
one of the Holstein’s calves and half of a second cow. Tom operated a black-

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smith shop and planted crops throughout the decade, but Kate knew that in-
come from these sources was unreliable. “Pa has done so much work and no
money,” she wrote in April 1931.20 By intensifying her subsistence and income
generating activities in the 1930s, Kate limited her family’s expenses and gave
them a steady cash flow. Part of her knew she had supplanted her husband as
the family’s chief provider.

work and womanhood


Kate’s work did more than keep the farm afloat, however. It reinforced her
femininity. Kate often expressed admiration for women who were “good work-
ers.” In her mind, a “good” farm woman and a “good” worker were one and
the same. Kate had clear notions about what it meant to be a respectable farm
woman in terms of work. First, it meant toiling long and hard. Second, it
meant displaying a positive attitude. Third, it meant maintaining gendered
work boundaries. And fourth, it meant holding to traditional male-female
power arrangements. Her husband might not be the family’s true breadwin-
ner, but the good farm woman behaved as though he were.
Kate’s most cherished characteristic in the 1930s was her capacity for hard
work. It seems she rarely sat down except to write letters. “I am busy as a nailer,”
she wrote one afternoon in November 1938 when she was plucking chickens,
baking bread, canning citron, and making pumpkin pies. Her letters describe
days that began at 5 a.m. and ended at 10: 30 p.m. Neither age nor bouts of ill-
ness slowed her pace. “I can hardly imagine I am 72,” she said in March 1938. “I
can move around like a twenty-year-old. I find lots to do here and often feel
tired but I still have ambition.” Despite persistent pain in her side and left arm,
Kate gardened and did laundry with her daughter-in-law and granddaughters.
“I help all I can of course. . . . Your Mother is not lazy remember.” Kate’s arm
bothered her so much in the spring of 1940 that she often soaked it in the hot
water reservoir attached to the kitchen stove to relieve the pain. “I have not been
so well, yet keep agoing,” she said.21 Kate was not the only woman in her fam-
ily who seemed driven to work. Her daughter Ethel Graves McCrea, who was
seven months pregnant and whose doctor had ordered bed rest, insisted on ris-
ing at 6:30 a.m., milking two cows, feeding sixty-nine chickens, and undertak-
ing a major housecleaning. Ethel said she defied the doctor because “it is hard
to be laid up when one wants to be up and doing.” 22
The Graves women’s long, arduous days were consistent with the twelve to
seventeen-hour marathons many Saskatchewan farm women reported during
the Depression.23 Western North American farm women who reflect on their
work in the first half of the twentieth century often tell oral historians that “you

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Kate Graves, July 8, 1938.


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just had to keep going” and “you just did what had to be done.” 24 One scholar
argues that in the 1930s Saskatchewan women worked “not out of a sense of no-
bility or devotion to duty, but because there was work to be done and there was
no one else to do it.” 25 No doubt Kate and other women in her family some-
times viewed their work with similar stoicism. But their letters also show that
they took great pride in their industriousness and saw it as a virtue.
Work was the sum of a good woman’s life. When Kate’s forty-six-year-old
daughter Mary died in 1933, Kate and her surviving daughters were comforted
when the minister said “not to think that because Mary had been taken young
that she hadn’t finished her work. She had accomplished more than some
people of eighty had.” 26 After a forty-five-year-old female neighbor died, Kate
wrote: “How she worked out here, and such a nice garden.” 27 Kate’s family was
not alone in judging a woman’s life according to her work. Local newspaper
obituaries referred to a sixty-six-year-old woman who was “very industrious
and untiring in the care of her family,” and a “highly respected lady” who
tended to her household duties “up to the time of her passing.” 28 Kate’s fam-
ily and community admired farm women who worked until they dropped.
As historian Mary Neth has said of rural Midwestern American women,
“Leisurely ideals of domesticity were not the model.” 29
Adverse economic and environmental conditions taxed many Saskatche-
wan farm women to the limit in the 1930s. Kate washed clothes on a scrub
board, cooked on a broken stove, swept dust from “grindy” floors, and gar-
dened amid wind storms and grasshopper invasions. Like most rural Sas-
katchewan women, she did not have access to electricity because the province
did not introduce a rural electrification program until 1949, fourteen years af-
ter the American government established its program. Western American
farm women were generally better off materially at the end than at the start of
the Depression, but this was not the case for Saskatchewan women.30 As late as
1942 – 43, 96 percent of homes in a relatively prosperous area near Saskatoon
had no running water and 92 percent had no electricity.31 In addition, women
often worked in isolation because they could not afford help, and female rela-
tives and friends who once lightened their spirits and workloads moved away.
Kate’s daughters often lacked the means to visit, and her grown granddaugh-
ters regularly pursued paid domestic work elsewhere. “I loved my bairns and
now they are all so far from me,” Kate lamented in 1935.32
In addition to these challenges, Kate assumed new responsibilities and
coped with advancing age. She devoted more time to Tom because his health
was declining and more energy to her son’s young family and the various
granddaughters who stayed with her. Kate had begun to think of herself as
“old” in the 1920s, when she was in her fifties. That was when she developed

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cataracts and the sense that she was looking through “a haze or dust in the
air.” 33 Now, in her sixties and early seventies, she could not see well enough to
do fine sewing, and her side hurt when she tackled arduous tasks. Part of her
believed she should take life easier: “I work far too hard for one of my years.” 34
But a bigger part rejoiced at her stamina. Instead of easing up in the 1930s, she
pushed herself even harder.
The Depression seems to have shifted Kate’s self-perceptions around age. In
the 1920s, she saw herself as tired and rather frail. But in the 1930s, she gener-
ally depicted herself as sprightly and energetic. She often boasted about her
agility, youthfulness, and productivity. In March 1939, when she was seventy-
three, she happily reported that she weighed only 106 pounds. “I move too fast
to put on weight.” Some women looked younger, but Kate doubted that they
could move as quickly or accomplish as much. “[Aunt Lottie] looks young by
her picture, yet she goes with a cane. And I know I look old and yet I can get
about on my feet quite as spry as a girl.” 35 Kate was more than prepared to
meet the challenges the Depression and her age presented. Indeed, she used
these challenges to fashion a new, more vigorous image for herself. She needed
to elevate herself in her own mind, to prove that she was not just a “good” farm
woman—she was “the best.”
It was not enough for farm women of all ages to work hard in the 1930s. Kate
thought they should be cheerful and efficient, too. “Katey is so clever,” she said
of fifth-eldest daughter Katey Graves Hatlelid. “How she manages and keeps
things running so smoothly these days—and no complaints. All the family
love her so.” 36 Kate regularly commented on female neighbors’ and family
members’ work styles. She thought one neighbor was “a very capable woman”
who “worked so well and systematically.” 37 Although several of her grand-
daughters were “great little workers,” Kate was especially fond of eldest grand-
daughter Enid Wallace: “She is so cheery and does one good. Always amiable
and willing to help out.” 38 Kate had little patience with women who failed to
pull their weight or to display the proper attitude. She disliked her niece’s teen-
age daughter because “she hates work,” and she found her daughter-in-law
Dorothy to be a temperamental and inefficient work companion.39
Dorothy was eighteen when she married Kate’s son Edward in 1933 and
joined the Graves household. At first Kate thought she showed promise as
a homemaker and wife. She was “very industrious” and mended clothes
“nicely.” “I tell you Edward’s clothes are kept in order.” But the pressure of liv-
ing together gradually eroded the women’s personal and working relationship.
Kate came to think of Dorothy as the antithesis of proper farm womanhood,
often criticizing her in her letters to Georgina. Apparently Dorothy did not
help Kate with butter churning, slept late some mornings (the fact that she was

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pregnant and unwell was no excuse), failed to dress her children warmly
enough, and generally made poor domestic decisions. Kate noted on a windy
spring day in 1937 that “Dorothy picked this horrid day to wash all her quilts
great and small,” and when the line broke, several quilts “wallowed in the
dust.” 40 Kate must have shared her opinions on Dorothy’s homemaking abili-
ties with daughter Katey, who said: “Dorothy . . . is a poor manager, but
mother helps her by tending the babies whenever asked.” 41 Dorothy’s worst sin
was not her inefficiency and laziness, however. It was her mercurial personal-
ity. Sometimes she was “sulky” and uncommunicative and other times she was
“large and aggressive.” Kate’s letters seldom reveal the nature of the two
women’s clashes— only that Kate saw Dorothy as selfish and immature and
herself as controlled and superior. “I try to be pleasant,” she insisted.42 Focus-
ing on Dorothy’s supposed flaws allowed Kate to believe that she herself was an
ideal woman. She knew how women should behave.
In addition to working hard and keeping positive, Kate expected women to
respect gendered work divisions. In her family, men owned the land and were
responsible for fieldwork, farm equipment, and large livestock. The barn, pas-
tures, and fields were their terrain. Kate assumed that crops belonged to men.
“[Ed] is getting ready to go to the ranch and harvest his crop,” she wrote
Georgina.43 Men were the family’s representatives in the community. Of-
ten they worked, conducted business, and attended agricultural and political
meetings together. Echoing prevailing prescriptive messages, Kate saw her
menfolk as breadwinners and heads of households.44 In her view, they must as-
sume overall responsibility for the farm and family and provide dependents
with adequate shelter and physical comforts. A son-in-law who bought a large
supply of groceries for his family was “a good provider.” 45 Kate praised men
who worked hard in their own area but did not require them to be efficient and
cheerful.
The task of nurturing family members fell mainly to women—as it did in
a vast number of Canadian homes in the 1930s.46 Kate and her female rela-
tives physically supported their families through their work in the house
and yard— cooking meals, washing clothes, cleaning house, tending children
and sick adults, and economizing by patching old clothing, sewing rag
rugs, and generally “making do.” Kate was proud of her ability to make limited
food supplies last. “Some people don’t know how to make things spin out like
your mother.” 47 Women also provided dairy, poultry, and garden products for
their families and the marketplace. Interestingly, dairy cattle were a contested
area in this family; men cared for them and often milked them, but women ex-
pressed ownership of them, processed the milk, and sold cream and butter. So-
cially, Graves women sustained their kin by organizing family gatherings, ex-

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changing letters with far-flung relatives, and providing food for church and
community events. Women also played a vital emotional role in the Graves
family. They were its “tension managers”—supporting men who felt “blue and
discouraged” about failed crops, consoling each other when Kate’s daughter
Mary died, and generally trying to keep the household on an emotional even
keel.48 No wonder Kate liked granddaughter Enid, who “is always in good hu-
mour and keeps others so.” 49
Last, women were responsible for inculcating the family’s religious, moral,
and social values in children. They were expected to teach them to be well-
behaved, to defer to elders, and to avoid “bad habits” such as smoking, drink-
ing, and talking “too much slang.” 50 Kate saw children as a reflection of their
mother. “It is so nice you have such a dear little family,” she wrote Georgina in
1932. “It is a great life work to bring them up good men and women. . . . Good
example and good advice is the thing.” Kate praised Georgina for taking her
sons to Sunday School, and took her own religious responsibilities seriously—
promising a Bible to grandchildren who memorized the Ten Commandments.
“I am so glad Ralph has learned the commandments,” she wrote Georgina in
1935. “I will trust you to see that he has them . . . ‘letter proof.’” 51
Kate expected women in her family to excel as homemakers and nurturers.
Thus, she praised her daughters and granddaughters for their domestic and
childcare skills. “Emma is a great little manager,” she said. “She is a good cook
and can sew nicely.” One granddaughter was commended for being “good in
her way with children.” Daughter Ethel “has two dear boys and is a very good
mother.” Conversely, Kate condemned women like Dorothy, who did not fit
her definition of the model homemaker. “[She] does not know the meaning of
being economical,” Kate sniffed. Nor was Dorothy an adequate emotional
caregiver. She was unkind to her mother-in-law and “was never taught respect
for her elders.” 52
Kate worked hard to perpetuate the Graves family’s gender values. Over and
over her letters reinforced her expectations of males and females. She assumed
that Georgina’s sons would work the fields with their father and her daughters
would work in the house with their mother. “Nice your sons are such a help to
Bert, and soon the girls will be lots of help for their Mother.” When injuries
prevented Georgina’s husband from doing fieldwork, Kate said: “He is lucky to
have his sons. And I think of the little nurses waiting on their Daddy so lov-
ingly.” The belief that Graves women should nurture other family members,
especially their parents, was very strong. “Your dear baby will be a joy to you
and Bert,” Kate wrote when my mother Muriel was born. “May be the one to
care for you in your old age.” 53
Most Saskatchewan farm families probably would have agreed with the

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standards Kate used to measure male and female behavior. Research con-
ducted in southwestern Saskatchewan in the 1960s suggests that the ideal of the
male farmer/provider and the female homemaker/dependent was firmly en-
trenched in rural society. Anthropologists John W. Bennett and Seena B. Kohl
found that men were judged mainly on their skills as ranch or farm operators
and their performance as family providers, and women were judged mainly on
their “goodness” as mothers and homemakers. Women derived part of their
status from and helped to bolster their husbands’ status in the community. But
their personal reputations rested on “behaviors acted out in the domestic
sphere.” 54 Of course, the Depression prevented many families from fully con-
forming to gender ideals. In addition to serving as their family’s true pro-
viders, an increased number of women performed fieldwork and other male-
designated tasks because their families could not afford male workers. They
would have received little “social credit” for such work, however.55
The Depression does not seem to have influenced the Graves’ gender divi-
sion of labor. They continued much as they had in the 1920s and as far back as
Kate’s early years in Quebec. Men and women seldom shared work activities or
crossed gendered work lines. On the rare occasions when men tackled domes-
tic work, Kate was pleased but amused. “I am sure you feel sorry for him,” she
told Georgina when Tom mended one of his coats.56 Women tended horses
and cows only when the men were busy seeding or harvesting, or away on busi-
ness. Rather than reveling in such opportunities (as some rural women did in
the 1930s), the Graves women seemed to regard them as a physical and mental
burden.57 Perhaps this is because these outdoor tasks were added to their do-
mestic obligations. When Kate’s son-in-law Bob McCrea was away for an ex-
tended period, his wife Jessie wrote: “We miss him a lot and I have all the worry
of the pasture cattle on my mind.” 58 Kate and other women in her family took
note, and were uncomfortable, when either sex stepped outside its “proper”
work realm.
Kate’s identity was tied to her conviction that women were homemakers and
men were farmers. She had no desire to see men gain more control in the do-
mestic realm or to see women gain more control in the agricultural realm.
Thus, she sought to police or contain cross-over work by viewing it as limited,
temporary, or inadequate. Men who performed women’s work, and vice versa,
were merely assisting those in charge. The fact that Tom “helped” Kate make
mincemeat in December 1935 did not make him a fulltime homemaker. The
fact that Ethel and Jessie tended the farm in their husbands’ absence did not
make them farmers. Both Dorothy and Edward milked the family’s dairy cows,
but Kate thought Edward was “at the helm.” Kate tended to ridicule men’s do-
mestic efforts, assuming that they could not handle such tasks as well as

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women. Once, when Jessie was sick and her husband stepped in as “chief cook
and bottle washer,” Kate joked that they were lucky their teenage daughter was
on hand. Similarly, Kate discounted women’s “out-of-doors work.” She took it
for granted that women would assume men’s responsibilities when men were
indisposed and did not give them particular credit for doing so. She seemed to
think it was having a “trusty hired man” on the ranch—not a wife—that gave
Bob McCrea the freedom to travel around the countryside.59
Kate’s notions blinded her to the integrated nature of the family farm. She
could not appreciate the full extent of women’s contribution to the enterprise.
Nor could she value women’s and men’s efforts equally. No matter how hard
women worked, in the house or the barn, Kate would always see their husbands
as the farm’s “real” operators. Men, being farmers, would always be entitled to
more rights and privileges than women.
Although many hard-hit farm families in western Canada and elsewhere re-
lied on women’s unpaid work in the fields in the 1930s, Kate’s letters never re-
fer to women working in the fields or pastures. Her granddaughters say Graves
women would have been “horrified” at the suggestion.60 The family called in
male relatives and hired male workers instead. In April 1936, Kate noted ap-
provingly that Bob McCrea had hired a man so his daughter “won’t have to
ride the range.” 61 And Kate’s daughter Ethel wrote in November 1934 that
crops had been poor for four or five years and the family required relief feed
for its animals. But somehow she and husband Ed managed to pay the hired
man. Family members were on relief and operated on the edge of survival, but
they found the resources to ensure that men worked with wheat and cattle and
that women worked back at the house.
Maintaining gender work boundaries was a matter of pride for both men
and women in the Graves family. Perhaps it was all about maintaining class sta-
tus and social respectability. The Graves men needed to control the fields to
think of themselves as farmers and to garner respect in the community. The
Graves women had no desire to jeopardize their husbands’ status—and their
own—by venturing far from the domestic sphere.
The Graves family assumed not only that men and women would perform
different work but that men’s work was more important than women’s work.
Women were expected to serve men—to make it possible for them to do their
work—rather than vice versa. Kate’s days were structured around the men’s
schedules and the need to be home to provide their meals. Sometimes, she rose
even earlier than usual to make breakfast for Edward so that he could line up
at the elevator for relief oats. And she frequently mentioned the need to inter-
rupt her letter-writing to begin cooking. “It is almost six, so I will get supper,”
she wrote in April 1931. “Men may be here soon.” 62 The extent to which her

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work supported farm operations by nourishing male workers is readily appar-


ent. In addition to her immediate family, she often fed the farm’s hired help,
threshing crews, salesmen, Tom’s blacksmithing clients, male visitors, and her
sons-in-law and their hired men—some of them “small giants who eat like all
possessed.” 63 In a one-month period in 1934, she prepared more than sixty
meals for people besides herself and Tom.
Kate regularly put the needs of her family and the farm’s male workers ahead
of her own, suppressing the wish to visit neighbor women or her daughters be-
cause of her workload. “My place is here, caring for all concerned.” 64 Daugh-
ter Katey sometimes worried about the toll men’s expectations took on Kate.
She thought feeding so many workers created “far too much work.” And she
complained about a brother-in-law who expected Kate to board his two
daughters. “He is just that stinking lazy, he puts the burden off on Mother.” 65
Kate’s determination to be “pleasant” permeated her letters to Georgina, pre-
venting her from openly chafing against the expectation that she serve men.
But sometimes she hinted that she was doing more work in her area than men
were doing in theirs. Especially in the winter time, and when drought de-
stroyed the crops, the Graves men had little outdoor work. But women still had
indoor work. Kate occasionally grumbled about feeding hired men who sat
around for days “doing nothing.” 66 Katey was openly angry when men took
advantage of her mother’s labor; Kate’s response was more muted. But both
women sensed that the family’s gendered work arrangements were inequitable.

gendered power relations


We have seen that Kate bolstered her image of herself as a respectable farm
woman by displaying a strong work ethic and maintaining gender-segregated
work boundaries. How did these strategies influence the amount of power she
wielded in her household? It seems the Graves granted women authority in do-
mestic matters but ensured that men retained their dominant status vis-à-vis
the farm and family. Sometimes Kate grumbled about male privilege, but she
ultimately deferred to the men in her family. Publicly she portrayed her mild-
mannered husband as a dominant figure and herself as his compliant wife. Ac-
curate or not, it was important to Kate to project an image that was compati-
ble with patriarchal notions that prevailed in prairie Canada in the 1930s.
To explain Kate’s relationship to male power, we must look to the patriar-
chal nature of the family farm and prairie society. Definitions of patriarchy
vary, but women’s historian Gerda Lerner defines it broadly as “the manifesta-
tion and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in
the family and the extension of male dominance over women in society in gen-

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eral. It implies that men hold power in all the important institutions of society
and that women are deprived of access to such power.” 67 Catherine Cavanaugh
and other historians argue that patriarchal notions formed the very basis of
prairie society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Many Anglo-
Canadians saw the West as a male preserve—a place that grew wheat and men.
Settlement mythology depicted men as brawny, enterprising farmers and
women as “gentle tamers” and “helpmates.” Government officials and legisla-
tors viewed women as dependents within the patriarchal family, rather than as
direct contributors to the agricultural economy. Drawing on middle-class gen-
der ideals, they developed laws and policies that systematically denied women
parity with men.68
To begin with, women were denied equal access to the West’s primary source
of wealth—land. The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 prevented most women
from acquiring free homestead property. Women could homestead only if they
were widowed, divorced or separated, and had dependents.69 Other laws se-
verely restricted married women’s claims to family property. The federal gov-
ernment abolished dower in the Canadian West in 1886, which meant that a
widow could not claim an interest in her husband’s estate. And English com-
mon law did not entitle wives to a share of farm profits or a say in the disposi-
tion of the family farm—no matter how hard they worked on its behalf. Re-
formers agitated for homesteads for women from early in the twentieth
century to 1930, without success. However, between 1915 and 1920, the prairie
provinces introduced legislation that guaranteed a widow a share of her hus-
band’s estate and prevented a husband from selling or mortgaging the home-
stead without his wife’s consent. The changes gave women some protection
“but no real security.” 70 They did not prevent husbands from selling or willing
to others the farm equipment, livestock, and household goods that made farms
viable. Nor did they entitle wives to an equal share of the marital property
while their husbands were living. Elizabeth Ann Kalmakoff argues that the
dower campaign failed “to elicit an acknowledgement in law of the value of
women’s economic contributions to the development of a farm and to agricul-
tural settlement as a whole.” 71 Although the new legislation put some limits on
husbands’ absolute economic power, many legislators, judges, and even dower
supporters continued to assume that men owned the land and were entitled to
conduct their families’ financial affairs.72 Few women gained legal ownership
or control of farm assets, either during the course of their marriages or upon
divorce. Despite reformers’ best efforts, women saw “patriarchy preserved on
the prairies.” 73
Kate was in a vulnerable position in the 1930s. She had no income indepen-
dent of her husband and the farm (at least until she began receiving the old-

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age pension in 1937). The farm was registered in Tom’s name and Kate’s legal
rights concerning the land, farm income, and family assets were limited. Tom
allowed her to control the egg and butter money, but he was not legally ob-
ligated to do so. Census officials did not recognize her as a farm operator
or record her domestic or agricultural work; she was an unpaid, uncounted
worker in her husband’s employ.74 Anthropologist Max Hedley, who has stud-
ied family farming in twentieth-century western Canada, argues that the term
“family farm” was something of a misnomer. All able-bodied family members
were expected to contribute their labor to the enterprise, but it was usually
owned by an individual male. Without direct access to land, women and chil-
dren were dependent on the male “head of household.” Relationships within
families varied, but the power to direct labor, collect profits, and dispense re-
wards ultimately rested with the senior male.75
Mary Neth argues that some, but not all, Midwestern farm women in the
1930s managed to use the increased economic value of their labor to mitigate
the effect of patriarchy in their lives. Their degree of success depended largely
on the quality of their relationships with male family members who controlled
farm resources. Some husbands were more egalitarian and more inclined to
value their wives’ labor than others.76 It is difficult to know how Graves men
perceived women’s labor and interacted with their wives in the 1930s, because
so few of their documents have survived. Kate’s letters and oral interviews with
surviving grandchildren suggest that Kate and Tom had a solid marriage. A
small man with a “kindly, genial disposition,” Tom does not appear to have
been an overly authoritarian mate.77 Kate’s granddaughters think Kate and
Tom saw themselves as economic partners who shared power equally, partly
because they had clearly delineated fields of authority and partly because Kate
participated in family and farm decision-making. Although Tom was the prin-
cipal decision-maker, Kate was a strong-minded woman who felt free to offer
her opinions. “I’m sure Grandma had a great influence on what Grandpa’s de-
cision would be,” says Enid Wallace Kolskog. “I can see Grandma sticking up
for something that she really wanted. . . . She wasn’t a pushover, not by any
means.” 78
Many historians and rural sociologists have examined decision-making ar-
rangements within farm households for clues to women’s relative status and
power. The decision-making process in the Graves family, as in many rural
families, was highly gendered.79 Kate and her daughters controlled their work
processes and made decisions concerning their housework, poultry, gardens,
and dairying. They often gave, exchanged, or sold poultry and dairy products
to each other and neighbors. For instance, in 1941 Kate told daughter-in-law
Dorothy she could have all Kate’s chickens in exchange for six eggs a day. Once,

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Kate Graves with husband Tom on the Graves family farm, April 23, 1939.

Kate reported that daughter Ethel and Ethel’s husband had marketed some
dressed poultry. “Ed took them to Assiniboia in his truck car. Ethel says she
will be sure to ship them alive next time. So much work.” 80 Although Ed trans-
ported and sold the poultry, Ethel thought of the poultry as hers and decided
what form the final product would take. Women were also in charge of hiring
female help and purchasing small household goods, such as canning equip-
ment. There is no indication that Kate sought Tom’s approval for her decisions
in these areas.
Men, meanwhile, enjoyed decision-making authority in their work area.
Kate indicates that it was Tom who bought the family’s horses and made ar-
rangements with men to handle men’s outdoor chores and fieldwork. The men
in Kate’s circle seem to have discussed their decisions concerning the crops and
the farm with their wives. Kate, Katey, and Ethel knew what fieldwork the men
were doing, what state the crops were in and how proceeds were spent. Kate
observed several times that Tom cashed the wheat check and paid various bills.
Katey noted once that her husband sold some wheat to finance their daughter’s
teaching education. No doubt the women believed they were in economic
partnerships with their husbands and influenced decisions concerning the

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farm. But the fact remains that they were the men’s decisions to make. The men
owned and controlled the fields, and they made decisions concerning the
products of the fields. This gave them more overall power than women. The
men, their families, and the community understood that they could make ar-
rangements for their farms and families as they saw fit. They were “benevolent
patriarchs,” in that they generally gave women autonomy in their own area and
listened to their opinions, but they could override women’s wishes if they
chose.81
Kate mentioned several occasions when Tom exercised his privileges as head
of household. After their son Edward moved to Quebec in the summer of 1937,
Tom decided to ship him Kate’s good cook stove, the kitchen table, and all of
their farm livestock—including “my two cows.” 82 When Edward returned two
years later, Kate said she and Tom planned to move into a new part of the
house and to give their quarters to Edward’s family. “Your pa decided we must
give them all this part. I hated to give up my bedroom from 25 years, but one
must give in at times.” 83 Kate noted several times over the course of the decade
that she would like a radio. Tom apparently promised to get one in the fall of
1939 if they paid off their debts, but then changed his mind. “Father says we
can’t buy a radio, and he don’t care much for one. I would enjoy it now. He
heard Ed’s on Fri. and was not fond of it. Before that he said we would get one
if we got everything settled up.” 84 On at least five occasions Kate also noted
that Tom had vetoed her wish to visit Georgina in Alberta. “Your father says I
cannot leave,” she wrote in August 1932. “They need me very much. Lots to at-
tend to and a busy time.” 85 Kate’s work was important to Tom—the farm’s
male workforce needed her “very much”—but it did not allow her to purchase
a radio, visit her daughter, or keep her bedroom and cows.
Kate responded to the inequitable male-female power arrangements in her
family with a mixture of resistance and acceptance. She never criticized her
husband directly, but her letters sometimes betrayed her frustration.86 That she
mentioned Tom’s edicts, emphasized that he was appropriating cows she had
purchased with her own earnings, and noted the arbitrariness of his decision
about the radio constituted resistance. At the same time, Kate reinforced Tom’s
position as family and farm head by giving Georgina the impression that she
bowed graciously to his will: “One must give in at times.” Kate acquiesced to
Tom’s wishes, even on issues that were important to her. Open defiance would
have jeopardized her status as a respectable, compliant farm woman. The
“good” farm woman knew her place in the patriarchal family hierarchy.
As usual, Kate expected other women in her family to follow her example.
When Edward decided to move his young family to Quebec, Dorothy earned
rare praise for supporting her mate; Kate called her “brave” and “willing.”

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When the young couple resumed living with Kate and Tom, however, Kate
criticized Dorothy for interrupting Edward when he chatted with his parents
and for expecting him to help her with gardening and other tasks. “She seems
to demand all his time in a way. . . . We feel he is bossed too much.” 87 Kate had
internalized the notion of female inferiority so successfully that she reacted
against any woman who broke ranks.88
It is important to note that, as Gerda Lerner argues, “patriarchy does not
imply that women are either totally powerless or totally deprived of rights, in-
fluence, and resources.” 89 Kate displayed agency, both in the domestic sphere
and in her dealings with her husband. She discussed many decisions concern-
ing the farm and family with Tom and was sometimes proud of her ability to
influence him. But she was also careful to show Georgina that she was not
overstepping her bounds. For instance, in July 1937, she wrote that she and
Tom had decided to buy one of Edward’s cows to keep Kate’s Holstein com-
pany. “Father and I each gave him ten dollars (my idea and father thought it a
good one).” 90 Kate de-emphasized the fact that buying the cow was her idea by
enclosing it in brackets and implying that it required Tom’s stamp of approval.
Apparently she did not want to give the impression that she was the chief de-
cision-maker.
The power dynamics in Kate’s household were complicated by the fact that
Kate applied for the old-age pension partway through the Depression. Tom
struggled with this issue. He initially refused to sanction Kate’s application or
to submit his own application. Like many Canadian men in the 1930s, he may
have thought accepting government help reflected poorly on his abilities as a
breadwinner.91 Eventually, however, both Kate and Tom sent off their applica-
tions. “I did half fill out the papers required last August,” Kate wrote in
June 1937. “Then Father was so opposed to my getting it, I gave it up. Now I
hope to get it this time, and I feel we will get along some way.” 92 Much as she
thought they needed the pension, Kate delayed sending her application until
her husband accepted the idea. Waiting for Tom to come around to her way of
thinking seems to have been another of Kate’s responses to male authority.
Kate seemed to welcome the economic power that came with her monthly
fifteen-dollar pension check. As historian James Snell has noted, the pension
gave many Canadian women their first secure, independent source of in-
come.93 “I am keeping the five of us on our old age pension,” Kate wrote in De-
cember 1938 when she and Tom were boarding three granddaughters.94 Kate
also used her pension to help several male relatives, financing Edward’s move
to Quebec and covering a nephew’s train fare to Alberta. Kate’s new income
probably caused problems for her on the home front, however. Perhaps it was
injured male pride that prompted Tom to seize Kate’s cows about the time her

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first pension check arrived. Kate may have chosen to be somewhat submissive
in the 1930s to allay conflict in her marriage.
If Kate enjoyed a measure of household decision-making authority during
this period, it stemmed less from her labor than Tom’s weakened economic
state and her access to the old-age pension. Her strong personality may also
have been a factor.95 But the fact that Kate generally felt it necessary to mini-
mize her influence and to defer to Tom is interesting. Parvin Ghoryashi sug-
gests that “under pressure of gender ideology” rural women consciously hid
the integral role they played in the farm enterprise.96 Women’s tendency to
downplay their contributions may have been especially strong in the 1930s,
when concern for male morale prompted many Canadian families to cling to
the fiction of the male as the economic head of the family.97
The Depression failed to shake Kate’s ideas about men’s and women’s roles.
Part of her knew she was doing much more than “hoeing her own row.” She
was working harder than her menfolk and contributing more than they were
to the welfare of the farm and family. But her vital labor and income did not
give her significantly more power in her household, partly because she contin-
ued to see men as independent breadwinner farmers and women as their do-
mestically oriented subordinates. Rural women’s scholar Gretchen Poiner ar-
gues that when internal or external forces threaten men’s power, women
actively uphold male authority: “In those aberrant circumstances in which
women come to the fore, the understanding that men ought to possess greater
power is translated into the belief that they do.” 98 Kate thought presenting her-
self as a hardworking woman who cheerfully engaged in gender-appropriate
tasks and submitted to male authority would enhance her power in the do-
mestic sphere and bolster her status in her family and community. She had no
intention of undermining the patriarchal system.

kate’s legacy
Sadly, Kate’s commitment to dominant notions of masculinity and femininity
did not serve her or future generations of prairie farm women very well. It
meant that women in her family and rural society in general would continue
to shoulder heavy workloads, to see themselves as “farmers’ wives” rather than
as farmers, and to enjoy far less power than men. Recent studies show that
overwork remains a serious problem for prairie farm women. They often work
more than thirteen hours a day, and the fact that many have added off-farm
work to their domestic and agricultural obligations compounds their stress.
Gender divisions of labor have changed little. Rural society still assumes that
women’s principal responsibility is to their homes and families and men’s re-

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sponsibility is to the farm business. A 2001 survey of 717 Saskatchewan farm


women found that, on average, “they did over 80 percent of the work associ-
ated with a variety of household tasks while participating in 37 percent of the
farming work.” Over 65 percent of the women described themselves as
“homemakers.” 99 Prairie farm women still struggle with personal and com-
munity expectations that they be “good” or “traditional” women who expertly
juggle myriad roles and always put their husbands and families first.100
The assumption that farming is a male pursuit and that men’s work is more
important than women’s work endures, perpetuating farm women’s economic,
legal, and social inequality. “Rural prairie women . . . appear to have tremen-
dous and unending responsibility but virtually no power,” writes southwest-
ern Saskatchewan ranch woman and author Sharon Butala.101 Men continue to
own and control the vast majority of western Canadian farmland. Only about
4 percent of prairie farms are operated solely by women, and approximately
24 percent are jointly run by a husband and wife.102 Few women have a legal
interest in the “family” farm.103 Rural families ensure men’s hold on power by
transferring land to sons rather than daughters. “All too often the ‘family farm’
is thought to rightfully belong to the men in the family, who pass title along to
their sons so the title remains in the ‘family name,’” notes the author of a
Saskatchewan report. “The wife and daughters have no right to profit from
their labour on the farm, and must pass along all benefits from their work to
their husbands, sons or brothers.” 104
Prairie farm women have seen some advances.105 When the courts rejected
Irene Murdoch’s bid for a share of the family ranch in the 1970s—saying the
Alberta woman’s extensive household and agricultural labor was only “the
work done by any ranch wife”—provincial governments across the country
awoke to the need for more equitable matrimonial property laws. On Janu-
ary 1, 1980, Saskatchewan enacted legislation recognizing women’s right to an
equal share in family property upon divorce.106 However, the Matrimonial
Property Act did not alter rural Saskatchewan’s “strongly felt” belief that farm-
land should be owned by men and that women’s work is of little economic
worth. Judges continued “to ensure that the family farm remained intact in the
hands of the husband at the expense of the woman’s fair share of the assets.” 107
In the case of Kate and her family, we know that Kate’s gendered notions cost
her power in her own household. Kate reinforced subordinate positions, not
only for herself but for her daughter-in-law, daughters, and granddaughters.
She taught them to think of themselves as stoical mothers, wives, and home-
makers who “must give in at times.” She taught them they would never be
farmers. That privilege was reserved for men. She told her daughters Edward
would inherit the farm—“of course.” 108 And they could divvy up her dishes.

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No one seemed to think this was unfair. The family probably reasoned that Ed-
ward deserved the farm because he helped his parents work it. They discounted
the fact that the daughters had helped to build the farm and that they contin-
ued to support their parents physically and emotionally as they aged. Kate val-
ued her daughters’ work as homemakers and nurturers, but she valued her
son’s work more.
After Kate died of a heart attack on May 3, 1941, the significance of her no-
tions for her daughters became especially clear. They comforted themselves by
focusing on the esteem Kate’s family and community felt for her and on how
happy she was to be “able to keep up with her work ‘til the last.” 109 They were
proud of her domestic and mothering skills and that she was so hard-working
and youthful. They thought about what their mother wanted for them and
measured their lives against her expectations. “I think that Mother was pleased
that we all had our homes and children and husbands,” Katey wrote Georgina.
Kate’s legacy to her children was her gendered values. She ensured that the
farm would endure in male hands and that her daughters would center their
lives around their families. Katey thought the best way Kate’s daughters could
honor her was by perpetuating her standards: “We must remember that our
families are our first consideration, and that if we do our best to bring our chil-
dren up right we will be doing her wishes.” 110
If my own experiences are any indication, Kate did a good job of transmit-
ting her notions to future generations of Graves women. I grew up on a farm
near my grandmother Georgina’s place in the 1960s. Kate’s notions meant that
I worked mainly in the house and garden with my mother and sister, while my
two brothers worked in the barn and fields with my father. Kate’s notions also
meant that I was not encouraged to farm—although I didn’t realize it then—
and so I left when I was seventeen to pursue education and work in the city.
Kate’s notions meant that Georgina and her husband would eventually sell
their farm to their sons and a male neighbor. My mother was devastated, be-
cause she and my father needed land and her parents hadn’t even considered
them. And yet, in 2001, my mother would phone me out of the blue to an-
nounce that she and my father were selling the farm to my brothers. She was
thrilled that the farm would remain “in the family.” Now it was my turn to be
devastated. Kate’s notions meant that the work I had done on the farm and my
emotional connection to the land counted for nothing. I realized my parents
didn’t value my work because I was female and because it wasn’t farming.
When it came to passing on the farm, only men were “family.” I begged to buy
part of the farm, but my parents stonewalled me. They could not hear me,
could not imagine me, could not allow me to own farmland. I have never seen
more clearly how patriarchy works to disempower women—and how women

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can participate in their own oppression. Kate could not see what she did to her-
self and her daughters, and my mother could not see what she was doing to me.
This is not just my story or Kate’s story. It is the story of virtually all prairie
farm women. In the 1930s rural women lived with a patriarchal system that
privileged men; the constraints they faced were enormous. Many women, like
Kate Graves, hoped to empower themselves by adhering to prevailing notions
about work and womanhood. Tragically, they reinforced the patriarchal sys-
tem and hurt women for generations to come.

notes
I would like to thank the Frontiers reviewers, David B. Marshall, Elizabeth Jameson,
Kate Logan, and Jeri Lynne Lorentzon for their helpful insights and encouragement.
1. Kate Graves Family Papers, author’s possession. The collection includes Graves
family documents dating from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Let-
ters Kate Graves wrote daughter Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths between 1930 and 1941
form the bulk of the collection. When she died in 1973, Georgina left the letters to her
daughters (my mother Muriel Griffiths Bye and aunts Jean Griffiths Checkel and Anna
Griffiths Rodvang). I am grateful to them for entrusting the letters to me. All letters
originate from McCord, Saskatchewan, unless otherwise noted.
2. Scholars who discuss rural American women during the Depression include
Mary Neth, Preserving the Family Farm: Women, Community, and the Foundations of
Agribusiness in the Midwest, 1900 –1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
1995); Deborah Fink, Agrarian Women: Wives and Mothers in Rural Nebraska, 1880 –
1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992); Katherine Jellison, En-
titled to Power: Farm Women and Technology, 1913 –1963 (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1993); Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, ed., Waiting on the Bounty: The
Dust Bowl Diary of Mary Knackstedt Dyck (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999);
Joan Jensen, With These Hands: Women Working on the Land (New York: Feminist
Press/McGraw Hill, 1981), 188 –206, 248 –77; Lu Ann Jones, Mama Learned Us to Work:
Farm Women in the New South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002);
Melissa Walker, All We Knew Was to Farm: Rural Women in the Upcountry South, 1919 –
1941 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000); Rebecca Sharpless, Fertile
Ground, Narrow Choices: Women on Texas Cotton Farms, 1900 –1940 (Chapel Hill and
London: University of North Carolina Press, 1999). On the general experiences of
Canadian women and families during the Depression, see Cynthia Comacchio, The
Intimate Bonds of Family: Domesticity in Canada, 1850 –1940 (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1999); Veronica Strong-Boag, The New Day Recalled: Lives of Girls and
Women in English Canada, 1919 –1939, rev. ed. (Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman, 1993).
Scholars who discuss prairie women during this period include Wendy Eileen Wallace,

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“All Else Must Wait: Saskatchewan Women and the Great Depression” (master’s thesis,
University of Victoria, 1988); Carolina Van de Vorst, “A History of Farm Women’s
Work in Manitoba,” (master’s thesis, University of Manitoba, 1988); Mary Kinnear, A
Female Economy: Women’s Work in a Prairie Province, 1870 –1970 (Montreal: McGill-
Queen’s University Press, 1998), 85 –99; Cristine Georgina Bye, “‘Times are Hard’: A
Saskatchewan Farm Woman’s Experience of the Great Depression” (master’s thesis,
University of Calgary, 2001).
3. Most research pertains to earlier periods. See Catherine A. Cavanaugh, “‘No
Place for a Woman’: Engendering Western Canadian Settlement,” Western Historical
Quarterly 28, no. 4 (Winter 1997): 493 –518; Sheila McManus, “Gender(ed) Tensions in
the Work and Politics of Alberta Farm Women, 1905 –29,” in Telling Tales: Essays in
Western Women’s History, ed. Catherine A. Cavanaugh and Randi R. Warne (Vancou-
ver: University of British Columbia Press, 2000), 123 – 46; Nadine I. Kozak, “Advice
Ideals and Rural Prairie Realities: National and Prairie Scientific Motherhood Advice:
1920 –1929,” in Unsettled Pasts: Reconceiving the West Through Women’s History, ed.
Sarah Carter et al. (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, forthcoming); Jeffery Taylor,
Fashioning Farmers: Ideology, Agricultural Knowledge and the Manitoba Farm Move-
ment (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1994), 68 – 89; Eliane Leslau Silver-
man, “Women and the Victorian Work Ethic on the Alberta Frontier: Prescription and
Description,” in The New Provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905 –1980, ed. Howard
Palmer and Donald Smith (Vancouver: Tantalus Research, 1980), 91–99; Sandra
Rollings-Magnusson, “Necessary for Survival: Women and Children’s Labour on Prai-
rie Homesteads, 1871–1911,” Prairie Forum 29, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 227– 44.
4. Veronica Strong-Boag, “Pulling in Double Harness or Hauling a Double Load:
Women, Work and Feminism on the Canadian Prairie,” in The Prairie West: Historical
Readings, ed. R. Douglas Francis and Howard Palmer, 2nd ed. (Edmonton: Pica Pica
Press, 1992), 401–23; Christa Scowby, “‘I Am A Worker, Not A Drone’: Farm Women,
Reproductive Work and the Western Producer, 1930 –1939,” Saskatchewan History 48,
no. 2 (Fall 1996): 3 –15; Scowby, “‘Divine Discontent’: Women, Identity, and the West-
ern Producer” (master’s thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 1996); Georgina M. Taylor,
“‘Should I Drown Myself Now or Later?’ The Isolation of Rural Women in
Saskatchewan and Their Participation in the Homemakers’ Clubs, the Farm Move-
ment and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, 1910 –1967,” in Women: Isola-
tion and Bonding; The Ecology of Gender, ed. Kathleen Storie (Toronto: Methuen, 1987),
79 –100; Georgina Taylor, “Equals and Partners? An Examination of How
Saskatchewan Women Reconciled Their Political Activities for the Cooperative Com-
monwealth Federation with Traditional Roles for Women” (master’s thesis, University
of Saskatchewan, 1983).
5. Dominion Bureau of Statistics, Seventh Census of Canada, 1931, Volume III: Ages
of the People (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1935), 112 –17. In Saskatchewan in 1931 there were

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164,137 rural females age fifteen and over. In Alberta there were 117,916 and in Manitoba
there were 107,917. The number of prairie women who wrote the farm press in the 1930s
is unknown, but in 1925 the female readership of the cooperative movement’s most
powerful organ, the Saskatoon-based Western Producer, was only 15,000 and in 1939 the
combined male-female readership was 105,000. Scowby, “Divine Discontent,” 26; Ian
MacPherson, Each for All: A History of the Co-operative Movement in English Canada,
1900 –1945 (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1979), 181.
6. On the general impact of the Depression in the Canadian and American Wests,
see Howard R. Lamar, “Comparing Depressions: The Great Plains and Canadian Prai-
rie Experiences, 1929 –1941,” in The Twentieth-Century West: Historical Interpretations,
ed. Gerald D. Nash and Richard W. Etulain (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico
Press, 1989), 175 –206. Studies comparing rural American and Canadian women’s ex-
periences in the 1930s are almost nonexistent. Susan Ware summarizes government
programs aimed at American women in “Women and the New Deal,” in Women and
Minorities during the Great Depression, ed. Melvyn Dubofsky and Stephen Burwood
(New York: Garland Publishing, 1990), 113 –32. On the few programs the Canadian gov-
ernment offered women, see Margaret H. Hobbs, “Gendering Work and Welfare:
Women’s Relationship to Wage-Work and Social Policy in Canada during the Great De-
pression” (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 1995), 195 –225; Nancy Christie, Engender-
ing the State: Family, Work, and Welfare in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto
Press, 2000), 196 –247; Strong-Boag, The New Day Recalled, 68 – 69; Wallace, “All Else
Must Wait,” 166 –78.
7. Jellison, Entitled to Power, 67–129; Jensen, “‘I’ve Worked, I’m Not Afraid of
Work’: Farm Women in New Mexico, 1920 –1940,” in New Mexico Women: Intercul-
tural Perspectives, ed. Joan M. Jensen and Darlis A. Miller (Albuquerque: University of
New Mexico Press, 1986), 227–55; Jones, Mama Learned Us to Work, 156 – 69.
8. Comacchio, The Infinite Bonds, 19 –39, 46 – 47, 150 –56; Alison Prentice et al., eds.,
Canadian Women: A History, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1996), 156 –58; Ram-
say Cook and Wendy Mitchinson, eds., The Proper Sphere: Woman’s Place in Canadian
Society (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1976); Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True
Womanhood: 1820 –1860,” American Quarterly 18, no. 2 (Summer 1966): 151–74; Mary
P. Ryan, Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790 –1865
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); Andrew C. Holman, A Sense of Their
Duty: Middle-Class Formation in Victorian Ontario Towns (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s
University Press, 2000), 150 –58.
9. Avis Hatlelid Frank interview, December 29, 2003; Enid Wallace Kolskog inter-
view, August 13-14, 1998.
10. Neth, Preserving the Family Farm, 28 –9. On farm women who rejected the “doc-
trine of separate spheres,” see Nancy Grey Osterud, Bonds of Community: The Lives of
Farm Women in Nineteenth-Century New York (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991);

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Jane Adams, “Resistance to ‘Modernity’: Southern Illinois Farm Women and the Cult
of Domesticity,” American Ethnologist 20, no. 1 (February 1993): 89 –113. On women
who stretched and redefined womanhood in the West, see Aileen C. Moffatt, “Experi-
encing Identity: British-Canadian Women in Rural Saskatchewan, 1880 –1950” (PhD
diss., University of Manitoba, 1996); Robert L. Griswold, “Anglo Women and Domes-
tic Ideology in the American West in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,”
in Western Women: Their Land, Their Lives, ed. Lillian Schlissel, Vicki L. Ruiz, and Jan-
ice Monk (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988), 15 –33; Seena B. Kohl,
“Image and Behavior: Women’s Participation in North American Family Agricultural
Enterprises,” in Women and Farming: Changing Roles, Changing Structures, ed. Wava
G. Haney and Jane B. Knowles (Boulder: Westview Press, 1988), 89 –108.
11. Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1987), 316 –17. The Dominion Lands Act of 1908 allowed a homesteader
to obtain a “free” quarter section of land and to purchase an adjoining quarter section,
for a total of 320 acres. At some point Tom purchased an additional fifty to fifty-five
acres. In addition to land, Tom owned eight cattle, nine horses, four pigs, and forty
chickens, according to a Rural Municipality of Mankota, Mankota, Saskatchewan, re-
lief ledger for 1934 –35.
12. G. E. Britnell, The Wheat Economy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1939);
John Herd Thompson with Allen Seager, Canada 1922 –1939: Decades of Discord
(Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1985), 119, 351; S. M. Lipset, Agrarian Socialism: The
Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan, rev. ed. (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1971), 118 –33; Vernon C. Fowke, The National Policy and the Wheat
Economy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957), 259; Province of Saskatchewan
Royal Commission on Agriculture and Rural Life, Rural Roads and Local Government:
A Summary (Regina: Queen’s Printer, 1956), 6; F. H. Leacy, Historical Statistics of Can-
ada, 2nd ed. (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 1983), M119 –128; Leonard J. Arrington and
Don C. Reading, “New Deal Economic Programs in the Northern Tier States, 1933 –
1939,” in Centennial West: Essays on the Northern Tier States, ed. William L. Lang (Seat-
tle: University of Washington Press, 1991), 227– 43.
13. E. S. Hopkins, A. E. Palmer and W. S. Chepil, Soil Drifting Control in the Prairie
Provinces, Canada, Department of Agriculture, Bulletin 32 (Ottawa: King’s Printer,
1946), 53 –55; Bruce Baden Peel, “R. M. 45: The Social History of a Rural Municipality”
(master’s thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 1946), 220 –390.
14. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, Lafleche, Saskatchewan, June 11,
1937.
15. Rural Municipality of Mankota, Relief Ledgers, 1930 – 40; Rural Municipality of
Waverley, Glentworth, Saskatchewan, Minutes of Council Meetings, 1930 – 42.
16. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, June 29, 1937.
17. D. M. Loveridge and Barry Potyondi, From Wood Mountain to the Whitemud: A

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Historical Survey of the Grasslands National Park Area (Ottawa: Parks Canada, 1983),
320; Britnell, The Wheat Economy, 202 –3.
18. Scowby, “Divine Discontent,” 128 – 46; Strong-Boag, “Pulling in Double Har-
ness,” 401–23; C. A. Dawson and Eva R. Younge, Pioneering in the Prairie Provinces: The
Social Side of the Settlement Process, Canadian Frontiers of Settlement, vol. 8 (Toronto:
Macmillan Company of Canada, 1940), 142 – 43; R. W. Murchie, Agricultural Progress
on the Prairie Frontier, Canadian Frontiers of Settlement, vol. 5 (Toronto: Macmillan
Company of Canada, 1936), 223 –24, 248 – 49, 263 – 64; Britnell, The Wheat Economy, 55,
71–72, 165 – 66; A Submission by the Government of Saskatchewan to the Royal Commis-
sion on Dominion-Provincial Relations, Canada, 1937 (Regina: King’s Printer, 1937), 173;
Van de Vorst, “A History of Farm Women’s Work,” 121–71, 230. On the increased im-
portance of farm women’s work across the border, see Dorothy Schwieder and Debo-
rah Fink, “Plains Women: Rural Life in the 1930s,” Great Plains Quarterly 8, no. 2
(Spring 1988): 79 – 88; Laurie Mercier, “Women’s Role in Montana Agriculture,” Mon-
tana: The Magazine of Western History 38, no. 4 (Autumn 1988), 50 – 61.
19. Bye, “Times are Hard,” 71–113.
20. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, April 19, 1933; July 26, 1937;
April 8, 1931.
21. Ibid., November 11, 1938; March 21, 1938; May 2, 1933; May 14, 1940.
22. Ethel Graves McCrea to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, June 20, 1937.
23. Scowby, “Divine Discontent,” 77.
24. Avis Hatlelid Frank interview, December 29, 2002; Julie Dorsch, “‘You Just Did
What Had to Be Done’: Life Histories of Four Saskatchewan ‘Farmers’ Wives,’” in
Other Voices: Historical Essays on Saskatchewan Women, ed. David De Brou and Aileen
Moffatt (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1995), 116 –30.
25. Wallace, “All Else Must Wait,” 6.
26. Katey Graves Hatlelid to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, Flintoft, Saskatch-
ewan, July 10, 1933.
27. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, May 4, 1934.
28. Assiniboia Times, May 24, 1939, 1; Meyronne Independent, September 22, 1938, 1.
29. Neth, Preserving the Family Farm, 28. Other scholars who note the high value
rural communities placed on hard work include Kohl, Working Together: Women and
Family in Southwestern Saskatchewan (Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Can-
ada, 1976), 19 –20; Catherine McNicol Stock, Main Street in Crisis: The Great Depression
and the Old Middle Class on the Northern Plains (Chapel Hill: University of North Car-
olina Press, 1992), 48 –54; Walker, Rural Women in the Upcountry South, 52 –53.
30. Jellison, Entitled to Power, 105.
31. Florence M. Edwards, Farm Family Living in the Prairie Provinces, Canada, De-
partment of Agriculture, Marketing Service, Economics Division, Technical Bulletin 57
(Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1947), 20, 26.

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32. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, March 18, 1935. On the grief
Kansas woman Mary Knackstedt Dyck experienced during her children’s absences in
the 1930s, see Riney-Kehrberg, “Separation and Sorrow: A Farm Woman’s Life, 1935 –
1941,” Agricultural History 67, no. 2 (Spring 1993): 185 –96; Riney-Kehrberg, Waiting on
the Bounty, 1–28. Other scholars who discuss women’s heightened isolation include
Georgina Taylor, “Should I Drown Myself,” 79 –100; Wallace, “All Else Must Wait,” 50,
60 – 61; Fink, Agrarian Women, 55 –56, 115.
33. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, May 24, 1937.
34. Ibid.
35. Ibid., March 24, 1939; May 25, 1936.
36. Ibid., December 18, 1934.
37. Ibid., June 29, 1937.
38. Ibid., August 12, 1935; January 25, 1940; December 5, 1935.
39. Ibid., December 18, 1934; June 29, 1937; August 12, 1935; December 5, 1935; July 30,
1931.
40. Ibid, April 3, 1933; May 2, 1933; April 17, 1937.
41. Katey Graves Hatlelid to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, Lafleche, March 20,
1936.
42. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, September 25, 1939; March 18,
1935.
43. Ibid., August 18, 1938.
44. Kozak, “Advice Ideals”; Jeffery Taylor, Fashioning Farmers, 68 – 89. Thorough
studies of gender prescriptions in prairie Canada in the 1930s are lacking, but prelimi-
nary research suggests that women continued to be exposed to, and to value, domestic
ideology. Georgina and other women in Kate’s family and community kept newspaper
clippings and scrapbooks depicting men as farmers and providers and women as
homemakers. Kate Graves Family Papers; Avis Hatlelid Frank interview, December 29,
2002; “Happy Homes” Scrapbook, Gertrude Wood Collection, R–E2009, Homemaker
Original File, Saskatchewan Archives Board, Regina.
45. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, January 10, 1935.
46. Strong-Boag, The New Day Recalled, 113.
47. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, April 19, 1933.
48. Pat Armstrong and Hugh Armstrong, The Double Ghetto: Canadian Women and
Their Segregated Work (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1984), 67– 68, 100 –101; Ethel
Graves McCrea to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, November 4, 1934.
49. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, December 18, 1934.
50. Ibid., May 4, 1934; December 29, 1938.
51. Ibid., July 22, 1932; July 1, 1935.
52. Ibid., Flintoft, February 5, 1933; February 27, 1934; September 14, 1937; May 27,
1937.

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53. Ibid., August 13, 1936; September 6, 1940; November 13, 1934.
54. Kohl, Working Together, 71; John W. Bennett, with Seena B. Kohl and Geraldine
Binion, Of Time and the Enterprise: North American Family Farm Management in
a Context of Resource Marginality (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
1982), 165.
55. Bennett, Of Time and the Enterprise, 165.
56. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, December 27, 1934.
57. Joan M. Jensen, “Farm Families Organize Their Work, 1900 –1940,” in Essays in
Twentieth Century New Mexico History, ed. Judith Boyce DeMark (Albuquerque: Uni-
versity of New Mexico Press, 1994), 13; Neth, Preserving the Family Farm, 25 –26, 236 –
37, 240; Anne Gagnon, “‘Our Parents Did Not Raise Us to be Independent’: The Work
and Schooling of Young Franco-Albertan Women, 1890 –1940,” Prairie Forum 19, no. 2
(Fall 1994): 173.
58. Jessie Graves McCrea to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, Milly, Saskatchewan,
September 3, 1937.
59. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, December 30, 1935; June 29,
1937; August 16, 1932; October 10, 1939; November 12, 1936.
60. Enid Wallace Kolskog interview, November 23, 2002; Avis Hatlelid Frank inter-
view, December 29, 2002.
61. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, April 20, 1936.
62. Ibid., April 6, 1931.
63. Ibid., May 4, 1934.
64. Ibid., August 18, 1938.
65. Katey Graves Hatlelid to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, Lafleche, August 27,
1937; March 20, 1936.
66. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, August 16, 1932.
67. Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press,
1986), 239.
68. Cavanaugh, “No Place for a Woman,” 493 –518; Cavanaugh, “The Limitations of
the Pioneering Partnership: The Alberta Campaign for Homestead Dower, 1909 –25,”
Canadian Historical Review 74, no. 2 (1993): 198 –225; Sandra Rollings-Magnusson,
“Hidden Homesteaders: Women, the State and Patriarchy in the Saskatchewan Wheat
Economy, 1870 –1930,” Prairie Forum 24, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 171– 83; Rollings-Magnusson,
“Canada’s Most Wanted: Pioneer Women on the Western Prairies,” Canadian Review
of Sociology and Anthropology 27, no. 2 (May 2000): 223 –38; Margaret E. McCallum,
“Prairie Women and the Struggle for a Dower Law, 1905 –1920,” Prairie Forum 18, no. 1
(Spring 1993): 19 –33; Friesen, The Canadian Prairies, 304; Sara Brooks Sundberg,
“Farm Women on the Canadian Frontier: The Helpmate Image,” in Farm Women on
the Prairie Frontier: A Sourcebook for Canada and the United States, ed. Carol Fairbanks
and Sara Brooks Sundberg (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1983), 71–90; Kathryn

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McPherson, “Was the ‘Frontier’ Good for Women?: Historical Approaches to Women
and Agricultural Settlement in the Prairie West, 1870 –1925,” Atlantis 25, no. 1 (Fall /
Winter 2000): 75 – 86.
69. Susan Jackel, introduction to Wheat and Woman, by Georgina Binnie-Clark
(1914; repr., Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979), xx–xxxi. Regulations were less
restrictive in the United States, where the Homestead Act of 1862 allowed both women
and men who were single or heads of households to homestead.
70. Linda Silver Dranoff, Women in Canadian Law (Toronto: Fitzhenry and White-
side, 1977), 50.
71. Elizabeth Ann Kalmakoff, “Woman Suffrage in Saskatchewan” (master’s thesis,
University of Regina, 1993), 52.
72. McCallum, “Prairie Women,” 30 –31.
73. Cavanaugh, “The Limitations of the Pioneering Partnership,” 199.
74. Nanci L. Langford, “First Generation and Lasting Impressions: The Gendered
Identities of Prairie Homestead Women” (PhD diss., University of Alberta, 1994), 170.
75. Max J. Hedley, “‘Normal Expectations’: Rural Women without Property,” Re-
sources for Feminist Research 11, no. 1 (March 1982), 15 –17; Hedley, “Relations of Pro-
duction of the ‘Family Farm’: Canadian Prairies,” Journal of Peasant Studies 9, no. 1
(October 1981): 71– 85.
76. Neth, Preserving the Family Farm, 32 –39, 241.
77. “The Late Thos. E. Graves,” newspaper obituary, 1941, Georgina Edith Graves
Griffiths scrapbook, Kate Graves Family Papers.
78. Enid Wallace Kolskog interviews, November 30, 2002; August 13 –14, 1998.
79. Carolyn E. Sachs, The Invisible Farmers: Women in Agricultural Production (To-
towa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld, 1983), 29 –34; Sarah T. Rickson, “Outstanding in
Their Field: Women in Agriculture,” Current Sociology 45, no. 2 (April 1997): 103 –10;
Jane Marie Pederson, Between Memory and Reality: Family and Community in Rural
Wisconsin, 1870 –1970 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 176 –77; Janet
Bokemeier and Lorraine Garkovich, “Assessing the Influence of Farm Women’s Self-
Identity on Task Allocation and Decision Making,” Rural Sociology 52, no. 1 (Spring
1987): 13 –36.
80. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, November 12, 1936.
81. Jeffery Taylor, Fashioning Farmers, 73. On the “tenuousness” of rural
Saskatchewan women’s partnerships with their husbands in this period, see Dorsch,
“You Just Did What Had to Be Done,” 125 –28; Moffatt, “Experiencing Identity,” 133 –
34, 138.
82. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, September 3, 1937.
83. Ibid., October 10, 1939.
84. Ibid.
85. Ibid., August 16, 1932.

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86. On “good” wives’ reluctance to criticize their husbands, see Dorsch, “You Just
Did What Had to Be Done,” 129.
87. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, June 29, 1937; June 10, 1940.
88. Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, 218; Sally Shortall, “Power Analysis and Farm
Wives: An Empirical Study of the Power Relationships Affecting Women on Irish
Farms,” Sociologia Ruralis 32, no. 4 (1992): 447, 450.
89. Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, 139.
90. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, July 26, 1937.
91. Comacchio, The Infinite Bonds of Family, 125; Comacchio, “Bringing Up Father:
Defining a Modern Canadian Fatherhood, 1900 –1940,” in Family Matters: Papers in
Post-Confederation Canadian Family History, ed. Lori Chambers and Edgar-Andre
Montigny (Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 1998), 292 –94.
92. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, June 11, 1937.
93. Snell, Citizen’s Wage: The State and the Elderly in Canada, 1900 –1951 (Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1996), 124, 222.
94. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, December 1, 1938.
95. Fink, Agrarian Women, 190, 195; Sharpless, Fertile Ground, 36; Pederson, Between
Memory and Reality, 164.
96. Parvin Ghorayshi, “The Indispensable Nature of Wives’ Work for the Farm
Family Enterprise,” Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 26, no. 4 (1989):
571–95.
97. Comacchio, The Infinite Bonds of Family, 125; Comacchio, “Bringing Up Fa-
ther,” 294; Christie, Engendering the State, 46 – 47; Strong-Boag, The New Day Recalled,
47– 48.
98. Gretchen Poiner, The Good Old Rule: Gender and Other Power Relationships in a
Rural Community (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1990), 136, 143.
99. Wendee Kubik and Robert J. Moore, “Women’s Diverse Roles in the Farm
Economy and the Consequences for Their Health, Well-Being, and Quality of Life,”
Prairie Forum 27, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 118 –19.
100. Ibid., 120; Wendee Kubik, “Women’s Contradictory Roles in the Contempo-
rary Farm Economy,” Prairie Forum 29, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 245 –52; D. Lynn Skillen, Bar-
bara Heather, and Jennifer Young, Reflections of Rural Alberta Women: Work, Health,
and Restructuring (Edmonton: National Network on Environments and Women’s
Health, 2001), 15 –16. Also see Pamela Smith, “Beyond ‘Add Women and Stir’ in Cana-
dian Rural Society,” in Rural Sociology in Canada, ed. David A. Hay and Gurcharn S.
Basran (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1992), 155 –70; Lois L. Ross, Harvest of Op-
portunity: New Horizons for Farm Women (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books,
1990); Lenore Swystun, “Women in Farming: A Social Economy of Multi-Family and
Single Family Farms in Saskatchewan” (master’s thesis, University of Saskatchewan,
1996); Michael Gertler, JoAnn Jaffe, and Lenore Swystun, “The Old Same Place? Gen-

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der Relations on Cooperative and Conventional Farms in Saskatchewan,” Prairie Fo-


rum 29, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 253 –78; Milagros Ranoa, Women and Decision-Making in
Agriculture: Barriers to Participation, RDI Report Series 1993 –2 (Brandon, MB: Rural
Development Institute, Brandon University, 1993); Jennifer J. Young, “Farm Women of
Alberta: Their Perceptions of Their Health and Work” (master’s thesis, University of
Alberta, 1997); Janet E. Fast and Brenda Munro, “Value of Household and Farm Work:
Evidence from Alberta Farm Family Data,” Canadian Journal of Agricultural Econom-
ics 39 (1991): 137–50.
101. Sharon Butala, Lilac Moon: Dreaming of the Real West (Toronto: Harper Collins
Publishers, 2005), 151.
102. Ibid., 149; Statistics Canada, 2001 Census of Agriculture, “A Profile of Female
Farm Operators,” “Who’s Minding Saskatchewan’s Farms?” “Who’s Minding Al-
berta’s Farms?” “Who’s Minding Manitoba’s Farms?” http://www.statcan.ca/english/
agcensus2001/first/profiles/toc.htm.
103. Faye Davis, Legal, Economic and Social Concerns of Saskatchewan Farm Women
(Saskatoon: Saskatoon Branch, Women’s Legal Education Action Fund, 1989), 3, 12 –14;
Langford, “First Generation,” 170; Michelle Boivin, “Farm Women: Obtaining Legal
and Economic Recognition of Their Work,” in Growing Strong: Women in Agriculture,
ed. Diane Morissette (Ottawa: Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women,
1987), 49 –90; Marnie McCall, Economic Security for Farm Women: A Discussion Paper
(Ottawa: National Association of Women and the Law, 1995), 23 n38; Smith, “Mur-
doch’s, Becker’s and Sorochan’s Challenge: Thinking Again about the Roles of Women
in Primary Agriculture,” in The Political Economy of Agriculture in Western Canada, ed.
G. S. Basran and D. A. Hay (Toronto: Garamond Press, 1988), 157–74.
104. Davis, Legal, Economic and Social Concerns, 18. Also see Norah C. Keating,
“Legacy, Aging, and Succession in Farm Families,” Generations: Journal of the Ameri-
can Society on Aging 20 (Fall 1996): 62 – 63; Bennett, Of Time and the Enterprise, 149 –
60, 373 –74; Kohl, Working Together, 56, 78 – 84, 107; Boivin, “Farm Women,” 67.
105. A growing number of women are calling themselves farmers, especially since
Canadian and American census officials began collecting information on more than
one operator per farm (in 1991 and 2002, respectively). See Statistics Canada, 2001 Cen-
sus of Agriculture; Meg Luxton and Leah F. Vosko, “Where Women’s Efforts Count:
The 1996 Census Campaign and ‘Family Politics’ in Canada,” Studies in Political Econ-
omy 56 (Summer 1998): 58; Gloria Leckie, “Female Farmers in Canada, 1971–1986,”
Professional Geographer 45, no. 2 (1993): 180 –93; Diane Rogers, “Very Hard Life,” Bri-
arpatch 25, no 2 (March 1996): 13; Penni Korb, “Women Farmers in Transition,” in
Structural and Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms: 2004 Family Farm Report, ed.
David E. Banker and James M. MacDonald, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Eco-
nomic Research Service, AIB–797, March 2005, 63 –72.
106. Murdoch v. Murdoch (1975), 1 S.C.R. 423; Boivin, “Farm Women,” 53, 61–

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63; Dranoff, Women in Canadian Law, 51–55; McCall, Economic Security for Farm
Women, 1, 9.
107. Davis, Legal, Economic and Social Concerns, 20; Jean E. Keet, “The Law Reform
Process, Matrimonial Property, and Farm Women: A Case Study of Saskatchewan,
1980 –1986,” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 4, no. 1 (1990): 166 – 89; Keet,
“Matrimonial Property Legislation: Are Farm Women Equal Partners?” in Basran and
Hay, The Political Economy of Agriculture, 175 – 84.
108. Kate Graves to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, May 29, 1939. The farm re-
mains in the Graves family to the present day. It is now owned and operated by one of
Kate and Tom’s grandsons.
109. The minister at Kate’s funeral called her a “kindly and devoted mother” who
“made the community the purer and more invigorating by her purposeful and useful
life.” P. G. McCready, “Funeral Oration for Kate Graves,” May 5, 1941, Kate Graves
Family Papers; Katey Graves Hatlelid to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, Lafleche,
May 18, 1941.
110. Katey Graves Hatlelid to Georgina Edith Graves Griffiths, Lafleche, May 18,
1941.

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