Celebrating the women who led NC's home demonstration movement


“North Carolina Cooperative Extension Women: The Early Years,” now part of the exhibit rotation in the Hunt Library’s iPearl Immersion Theater, highlights some of the women pioneered home demonstration and other North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service programs.

Covering the growth of extension programs from a handful of home economics classes to a statewide network of cooperative education programs serving tens of thousands of North Carolinians, the exhibit presents profiles and portraits of 13 women who taught classes — sometimes going door-to-door — on practical topics like cooking and canning, sewing and hat-making, and nutrition and diet. Working throughout the 1920s and into the 1960s, these women also played other roles in areas like literacy and rural electrification.

“These women are representative of the hundreds of extension agents who have served North Carolinians during the past century,” says Todd Kosmerick, University Archivist. “We found their lives and accomplishments so fascinating that we wanted to share that information with a broader audience.”

The exhibit celebrates some of the big names in extension programs, such as home demonstration leader Jane McKimmon, for whom NC State’s McKimmon Center is named, and her successor Ruth Current, who expanded the programs to include areas like arts and crafts, literacy, and citizenship. Lesser known figures, such as Minnie Miller Brown, who was the first coordinator of the North Carolina Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), made important contributions for African-American women in agriculture.

“North Carolina Cooperative Extension Women” has been created in conjunction with “Better Living in North Carolina,” a project to digitize correspondence, reports, audio recordings, scrapbooks, and other primary sources about the history of agricultural extension. This joint project of the NCSU Libraries and the F. D. Bluford Library at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is partially supported with federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds, which are made possible through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.