Kansas Women at Work

Each day, KHC features the hot topics and great speakers in the Speakers Bureau catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “19th-Century Rural Kansas Women at Work” by Isaias J. McCaffery.

Carrying milk

Dorothy Robbins Wick and Jessie Robbins Akers carry milk cans at their farm near Topeka, c. 1890.
Image from kansasmemory.org, Kansas Historical Society, copy and reuse restrictions apply.

Although most Kansas women in the 1800s tended children and managed the homestead, some also supplemented the family income by bartering agricultural products in nearby towns. In his Speakers Bureau presentation, McCaffery discusses these women as well as others who worked as domestics in the city or taught in the one-room schoolhouses that dotted the prairie.

“The sheer physical endurance and the range of skills that rural women needed in order to fulfill their daily obligations was phenomenal, but often taken for granted,” McCaffery noted. “My appreciation of my mother and grandmother’s versatility and expertise continues to grow, as does my realization of how easy and pampered our modern lives have become in comparison.”

Isaias J. McCaffery

Isaias J. McCaffery is a history professor at Independence Community College and is past president of the Kansas Association of Historians. His collection of 909 Mennonite Low German Proverbs from Kansas was published in 2008.

Bring Isaias J. McCaffery’s “19th-Century Rural Kansas Women at Work” or one of the other presentations in the Speakers Bureau catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, KHC program officer, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.