Mainly for Women

By Deborah Sproat Posted: June 11, 2019 11:00 a.m.

Brandi Adams with a copy of the Alberta History journal where her arrticle appears.
Brandi Adams with a copy of the Alberta History journal where her arrticle appears. Photo: U of R Photography

The experience of women living on Prairie farms in the 1930s came alive for undergraduate history student Brandi Adams when she delved into the archives of The Western Producer, a farm weekly that’s been an important source of news for farm families for almost 100 years.

Working with digital copies of October issues of the paper published over a 12-year span between the two World Wars, Adams read countless letters and articles written by women of the time and published in the paper’s “Mainly for Women” section.

Originally done as a history assignment, her paper, “Violet McNaughton and the ideal Prairie woman," was later published in the winter 2019 edition of Alberta History.

Adams found that the women created a community through the pages of The Western Producer, and that they shared values such as hard work, self-sacrifice, and frugality, together with a belief in the importance of community and the value of education.

The “Mainly for Women” section was edited by farm leader and social activist Violet McNaughton. Adams says McNaughton wrote articles aimed at empowering Prairie women; she encouraged them to take an active role in their community and improve their way of life, focusing on issues such as education and access to clean water.

Through the research, Adams came to know the women she was reading about and says it’s important for women today to know about the struggles of earlier generations of Prairie women.

It was obvious the women respected McNaughton, she says, and they regarded her as a member of their community, “someone who would advocate on their behalf, someone who would agree with a lot of the same values and ideas that they had.”

Through the research, Adams came to know the women she was reading about and says it’s important for women today to know about the struggles of earlier generations of Prairie women.

“I really enjoyed getting to know these women, the relationships they had with one another, and the back-and-forth,” says Adams. “Even though the 1930s seem distant from us, I really felt I had connected with them in some way.”

Adams is now a 4th year honours history student with plans to continue focusing on women’s history at the graduate level. She is particularly interested in the history of the 1950s and is currently researching the home economics club of Regina by studying minutes and scrapbooks housed in the Saskatchewan Archives.

“I think the 1950s is an interesting era because it was a time of great change,” she says. “There was a push to put women back into the home.  A lot of women really rebelled against that and resisted that push towards suburbia and home life. I find that fascinating.”