History of Home Demonstration in North Carolina

Introduction

The Family and Consumer Sciences department of North Carolina State University's Cooperative Extension Service was originally known as Home Demonstration, and it evolved out of the efforts of Ira Obed Schaub, Jane S. McKimmon, and others, to develop farm boys' and girls' clubs. The girls' clubs worked under the direction of McKimmon and other agents to sell home-canned tomatoes, which expanded into other canning activities. These clubs eventually became known as 4-H clubs.

1900s-1920s

In 1909, McKimmon became an instructor at farmer's institutes, where she instructed the girls, along with their parents, on canning as well as what she called other "housewifely arts." By October of 1911, the General Education Board (originally established by the Rockefeller Foundation) had made a sum of $300 available to employ a woman home demonstration agent in each of the southern states. Schaub, the North Carolina State College extention boys' and girls' club agent at the time, hired McKimmon to take this position, which began on November 1, 1911. McKimmon organized the service so that fourteen pioneer counties each hired, for a small salary, a county home demonstration agent who could reach families on a more personal level.

Initially, these agents were hired only for two months during the canning and growing seasons. They soon realized, however, that the job would require much more time, due to the effort needed for organization, gardening, and marketing. After the first year, agents were hired to work for a full year.

At this point, the home demonstration work was still intended mainly for farm girls. However, by the summer of 1912, many mothers began attending canning schools with their daughters and became interested in learning other things as well. By 1913, women's clubs had been organized in each county where there was a home demonstration agent stationed, and by the end of 1914 there were thirty-two counties organized with an enrollment of 1500 members. As the organization kept growing, McKimmon and others made the decision in 1916 to split the women's home demonstration clubs and the girls' 4-H clubs. The first six African American home demonstration agents were appointed in 1922 to work exclusively with African American farm women.

Most of the home demonstration projects in the first few years directly related to commodities that could be sold to increase the family income. Women and girls sold canned goods, eggs, poultry, ham, turnip greens, and fresh vegetables, and by doing so were able to earn a small amount of money. Some of them used that money for labor-saving devices for the home. One popular device was the fireless cooker, which allowed farm women to cook poultry while they were doing other necessary work on the farm. The home demonstration clubs eventually branched out from food-related instruction to include things such as cleaning, increased storage space, and sewing clothing and hats.

1930s-1970s

By the 1930s, home demonstration clubs had been firmly established all over North Carolina, and during the Great Depression agents concentrated on relief gardens, curb markets, food conservation, and clothing construction. In 1933, 140,000 relief gardens were reported, and about thirty curb markets were accounting for $300,000 annually in sales. By the end of World War II, the home demonstration club program had 55,185 total members in 2175 clubs. Of these, 12,952 members were African American in 587 home demonstration clubs. The program was labeled the most strongly organized educational group in North Carolina by the 1945 Extension Service annual report. That same year, Home Demonstration established the family life relations section. By 1950, home demonstration clubs began health and community improvement drives, and agents were helping members with financial planning and preparation of wills.

The 1960s saw the newly named home economics program, subsidized by the federal government, becoming concerned specifically with the problems of low-income families. Home economists established centers in Mecklenburg, Forsyth, Robeson, Scotland, and Richmond counties. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), which was designed to improve the nutrition of low-income North Carolina families, was established in February 1969. By the late 1970s, special programs were being enacted for the elderly, concerning nutrition and health, consumer education, income management, energy conservation, crime prevention, and intergenerational education. In 1978, home economics became a department at North Carolina State University.

2000s

Today, the Family and Consumer Sciences department, as home economics has become known, is one of twenty-two departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The staff of twenty-five faculty members holds appointments as well with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and work in fields such as nutrition, human development, parenting, aging, housing, health, and family resource management. The department also works cooperatively with Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) field agents, also known as county field faculty. Field and department faculty work together to develop and implement educational programs for families.

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Return to our Learn More page to find other essays related to the history of 4-H and Home Demonstration in North Carolina.

Woman pouring water in a wash tub, preparing to do laundry Hazel Carris of Pitt County at her 4-H exhibit, "Drink Your Way to Health" L. R. Harrill and others launching the U.S.S. Tyrrell on July 10th, 1944 in Wilmington, N.C. L. R. Harrill revealing the plaque placed on an ambulance donated to the United States Army Medical Department in honor of former 4-H club members now serving in the armed forces