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Dirt Farmer: 1942

Dirt Farmer: 1942

June 1942. "Knox County, Tennessee. Electrification of farms made possible by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Mrs. Wiegel, farm wife, uses electric vacuum cleaner." Acetate negative by Arthur Rothstein for the U.S. Foreign Information Service. View full size.

 

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We get a pleasant nostalgic smile from this photo, but it's almost impossible to overstate what rural electrification meant to America after 1936 -- and particularly to farm women. Not only electric lighting and labor-saving appliances, but equally important, the ability to pump water into homes, eliminating back-breaking work by farm wives. Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson (Vol. 1) has a long eloquent section on the lives of farm women early in the century. LBJ, who grew up in a dirt-poor rural area without basic public utilities, was elected to Congress as a New Deal supporter in the year the Rural Electrification Act was passed.

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