Linking Women in Appalachia to Agriculture: Rural Culture Past and Present


The history of Appalachia is deeply rooted in an agrarian society whose survival depended largely on subsistence farming. Women played a crucial role in the survival of rural communities through their contributions to family life although there is frequently little mentioned in the history books on Appalachia. Women’s work in rural communities consisted of hard labor through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Women cared for their children, manufactured the family’s clothes, kept large gardens and stored food for the winter. Often they milked the cows and tended to the other livestock. Women were enterprising as they supplemented family income by selling or trading surplus from their gardens and livestock. Women sold butter, eggs, canned goods, medicinal plants and berries in their communities. Women’s contributions to farming are largely understated throughout many of the historical works on Appalachia. Carolyn E. Sachs is a current writer about agricultural issues facing women and her works are useful in studying women in rural agriculture, regionally and globally. Excellent frameworks for setting women in agriculture in history are included in the 1935 Economic And Social Problems And Conditions Of The Southern Appalachians and chronology of women’s organizations provided in The Entrepreneurial Characteristics of Farm Women. Often, the subject of Women in Agriculture in Appalachia requires finding a few sentences dedicated to women’s work, or rural family life in larger works that encompass all interdisciplinary subjects in Appalachia – though a few works specifically about Women in Agriculture (or farming) in Appalachia do appear both historically and in present times.

Introductory Text: 

Jones, Lu Ann. Mama Learned Us to Work : Farm Women in the New South. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2002 ASU MAIN STACKS HD6077.2.U6 J66

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly Relevant:

  • Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture
  • Farms, Small -- North Carolina -- Watauga County
  • Rural women -- Southern States
  • Women farmers -- Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Women farmers -- North Carolina -- Watauga County
  • Women in agriculture -- Southern States


Also Relevant:

  • Agriculture and State -- North Carolina
  • Agriculture and State -- North Carolina History -- 19th Century
  • Appalachian Region -- Rural conditions
  • Appalachian Region, Southern -- agriculture
  • Farmers’ spouses -- Employment -- United States -- Case studies
  • Rural women -- United States
  • Women farmers -- United States
  • Women in agriculture
  • Women in agriculture -- Kentucky
  • Women in agriculture -- Tennessee
  • Women Farmers

More General:

  • Agriculture – History
  • Agriculture - Kentucky
  • Businesswomen -- United States
  • Family Farms
  • Family Farms - - Management
  • Sociology, Rural -- United States
  • United States -- Rural conditions
  • United States Department of Agriculture


  • Agricultural extension work -- Case studies
  • Agricultural systems -- Research -- Case studies
  • Farms, Small -- Case studies
  • Farm Produce – North Carolina -- Marketing
  • Rural families –South Carolina Fiction
  • Sustainable agriculture -- North Carolina -- Watauga County
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Agriculture
  • Appalachia -- economic conditions
  • Culture-Appalachia
  • Livestock and care of llamas
  • North Carolina History
  • Watauga County Farmers Market
  • Women
  • Women -- Appalachia
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • F 216 – F218
  • HD6073 – HD 6078
  • HN79-HN80
  • Z125

Blakney, Ruth Ellen. Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture: Resistance and Persistence of the Small Farmer in Northwestern North Carolina. Boone: Appalachian State University. May 2005. APP COLL HD 6077.2.U62 N8

Jones, Lu Ann. Mama Learned Us to Work : Farm Women in the New South. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2002, 49-80. ASU MAIN STACKS HD6077.2.U6 J66 (The bibliography in this book is also extensive and useful.)

Pudup, Mary Beth, et al (eds.). Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the 19th Century. Chappel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995, 192-97. APP COLL F 217. A65 A654

Walker, Melissa. All We Knew Was to Farm : Rural Women in the Upcountry South, 1919-1941> Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. ASU APP COLL HD6073.F32 U69

Fisher, Stephen L. (ed.) Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993, 70, 123-47
In particular: Hamilton, Hal and Ellen Ryan. “The Community Farm Alliance in Kentucky: The Growth Mistakes, and Lessons of the Farm Movement of the 1980s.”

Fisher, Steve, and Mary Harnish. “Losing a Bit of Ourselves: The Decline of the Small Famer.” Johnson City, TN: Appalachian Studies Conference, 1980 APP COLL HD 1476.U3.F5

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Abramson, Rudy, and Jean Haskell (eds.). Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006, “Agricultural Education” 404-5; “Dairy Farms” 414-15; “Home Demonstration” 428; “Native American Agriculture” 428-29; “Subsistence Farming” 433; “Women in Agriculture” 438-39. ASU APP COLL F106.E53

Maman, Marie, and Thelma H. Tate. Women in Agriculture: A Guide to Research. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1996 UNCA REFERENCE HD6073.A29 B16 This reference is available at UNCA for reference only, however, is an integral guide to learning about Women In Agriculture in general.


________. Appalachian Bibliography:1980. Morgantown: West Virginia University Library. APP COLL Z1251.A7A6

Farr, Sidney Saylor. Appalachian Women: An Annotated Bibliography. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1981 ASU APP COLL Z7964.A127 F37

Ross, Charlotte T. (ed.) Bibliography of Southern Appalachia. Boone, NC: Appalachian Consortium, 1976 ASU APP COLL OVSZ Z1251.A7 B5x

Brown, Jo. B. The Appalachian Studies Bibliography Cumulation 1994-2004. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Libraries. This bibliography can be viewed on-line at

Abstracts and Indices: 

Agricola. Online Database. ASU WEB ACCESS Offers abstracts of relevant articles on women and agriculture in Appalachia. Agricola can be found at at the National Agricultural Library website.

America: History and Life. ABC-CLIO. Online Database. ASU WEB ACCESS Offers abstracts of relevant articles on women in agriculture in Appalachia.

Biological Abstracts. Silver Platter, 1980-present. (Updated Quarterly). ASU WEB ACCESS Provides citations and abstracts from nearly 6,000 international journals on biology and the life sciences. To learn more about Biological Abstracts, see

Tennessee Historical Quarterly: Cumulative Index Volumes I-XXV 1942-1966 Tennessee Historical Society, Tennessee Historical Commission Nashville: Williams Printing Co., 1970. ASU APP COLL F431.T285 This index contains sections on Women and Agriculture as separate indexing categories.


Appalachian Journal.Vol. 1, 1972- . Quarterly. Boone, NC Center for Appalachian Studies, Appalachian State University ASU APP COLL F216.2.A66

Farm and Ranch with Southern Agriculturalist. Nashville, Tenn.: Farm and Ranch Pub. Co., 1949 – Bound: v.80-81; v.83-84; v.86; v.88-92. Monthly ASU APP COLL STACK S1 .F24 –This is a magazine with some references to women on farms in articles and advertisements: attention v.80, 1950.

Journal of Appalachian Studies.Vol. 1, 1995 – . Biannual. Huntinton, West Virginia: Marshall University. ASU APP COLL F106.J74 This journal is the official journal of the Appalachian Studies Association used by academics, scholars, teachers, and activists focused on the Appalachian Region. For more information see

Sociologia Ruralis.Electronic Resource ASU WEB ACCESS Sociologica Ruralis: The Journal of the European Society for Rural Sociology is an international forum for social scientists covering a wide range of subjects including natural resources, food systems, and farming.


2002 Cencus of Agriculture State Profile. North Carolina. United States Department of Agriculture.

Blue Ridge Women In Agriculture.

Kentucky Women in Agriculture.

Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation: Farm Bureau Women.

Women in Agriculture.

Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

Other Sources: 

Economic And Social Problems And Conditions Of The Southern Appalachians The Bureau Of Agricultural Economics, Bureau Of Home Economics, And Forest Service Washington, D.C. : U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 1935 ASU APP COLL HC107.A13 A73

Tanner, Bonnie O. The Entrepreneurial Characteristics of Farm Women. “Chronology of Women’s Clubs, Organizations, and Associations.” Appendix E. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1999 ASU MAIN STACKS HD6073.F32 U68 1999

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Stacy Lynn Gloss, 31 October 2007