The Ideal Farm Home Contest–1926

March 1926 THE FARMER’S WIFE — A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN launched a competition for its subscribers — Describe Your Dream House and Win a Prize. The rules were simple. 1. Describe your Ideal Farm Home in a letter. 2. Keep your letter within 1,000 words. 3. The letter must reach the publishing office before May 1st. Submissions must also include a list of the ten points which you consider most important to include in planning any farm — ten items that simply should not be left out. The top prize would be fifty dollars cash! Hundreds of women responded. The “data” was analyzed and the results were published in the October issue. The number one amenity the farm women desired for an “ideal” farm home was electricity.

The original article summarizing the information gathered from the letters is quite lengthy so I have divided it into three sections. Each section will be published as a separate post. I hope that these farm women got to enjoy most, if not all, of these luxuries at some point in their life. Happy Reading!

Elaine

PART ONE

Last March The Farmer’s Wife offered substantial cash prizes for letters from farm women describing their Ideal Farm Home. We also asked each contestant to list ten important points in the arrangement of a farm home.

This proved to be a subject on which many hundreds of our readers had clear-cut ideas and the letters received were at the same time very difficult and very delightful to grade and judge: difficult because, being sincere expressions on a subject concerning which our readers are well informed they were all uncommonly excellent; delightful, because they once more confirmed our established opinion of farm women as the finest and best and most know-how women in the world. Their judgement is good. ~The Editors

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“A REMARKABLY large number of those who entered The Farmer’s Wife Ideal Home Contest, expressed their feeling that the building of the farm home does not begin with the actual house but includes the entire farmstead as the beauty, convenience and success of a farmhouse depends on its location and surroundings. Many spoke of the importance of the wood lot, from both the economic and the aesthetic viewpoints; shrubs to tie the house to the ground; flowers; shade trees for shelter and beauty. Many who live in the northern parts of the United States mentioned the need of a windbreak for shelter. Some whose “dream houses” are still in the future have already started by planting trees and shrubs on the chosen site. The one outstanding thought in the contest letters is the fact that farm women consider the farm home as a place for children and feel that any feature not suited to happiness, health, and development of children has no place in a farm home. Many mentioned the fact that windows should be low so that wee folks can see out; that there must be a place for children to play and a place for toys and childish treasures; that each child should have some nook or corner that is really his, even though it be only a drawer or a shelf or a bit of closet; a number spoke of gymnasium equipment in the basement; and many of the workbench for the boys as well as of the workshop for Father.

But the physical development of the child does not receive all the attention in the letters our farm women readers wrote on this fascinating subject, for over and over again came the demand for a place for plenty of books and magazines and almost everyone desired some provision for music and musical instruments – piano, phonograph, radio; some even are planning whole home orchestras.

THE contest letters show that farm women have done a lot of real thinking about the ideal house and home.

As to the type of house described in the contest letters: The plain square house still leads any other type in popularity because it is the most economical type to build. Other types are rapidly gaining favor. The bungalow and the story-and-a-half house both received many votes from farm women who feel that they save much time and strength which has in the past been spent in climbing stairs. Many mentioned the fact that the house which is low seems to fit better into the farm landscape, than one which stands higher and on a smaller foundation. Many spoke of the Dutch Colonial as being especially attractive in a farm setting and still giving a floor plan which meets the needs of family life on the farm.

The frame house is a leader but there is a distinct tendency toward brick and stucco as they are more resistant to fire and also because of the lower cost of upkeep even though the first is somewhat higher. Fireproof roofs are mentioned again and again.

It is the consensus of opinion that the farm home should have at least one bedroom downstairs for the reasons that the farm mother must be nurse as well as housekeeper and that there are often either old people or small children in the farm family and the downstairs bedroom saves much time and strength.

The location of the laundry is a question on which there is much disagreement. Of the women who expressed themselves, 56% feel that the laundry in the basement is most practical; 23% would have it on the same floor as the kitchen; 3% want it in a building separate from the house. Those who favor the basement feel that it takes the “mess” away from the living floor; those who wish it on the first floor locate it near the kitchen so they can attend to the many other things a farm mother has to do while working and avoid carrying clothes up and downstairs. A place undercover for the drying of clothes in winter is considered essential.

The laundry room, these practical folk point out, whether in the basement or on the first floor, can also be used in canning and butchering seasons and the laundry stove should be of a type adapted to these needs. There should be in the room a table with a very heavy top to be used for laundry purposes and the oven for baking use on hot summer days. They suggest that baking can be done here while the fire is going for laundry work.

TO BE CONTINUED

Mission Statement & New Beginning

The publication The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine For Farm Women was published from 1897 through 1939 boasting a readership of over one million at its peak. In opposition to “pretty” magazines for women. In October 1926, The Farmer’s Wife’s proclaimed mission was to be the voice of and for farm women in politics, women’s suffrage, community development, improved formal education for rural children, agrarian and homemaking education for rural women, family recreation, and healthcare.

As with any periodical, advertising was a very large part of the printed material. Nearly all products featured in The Farmer’s Wife, from dress patterns to oil stoves, were available through mail-order, much like the online shopping of today, thereby making a wide variety of products accessible to rural buyers. Perhaps because of this advertising, a four-year subscription of twelve magazines per year cost one dollar a hundred years ago.

The community created through The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine For Farm Women, much like Facebook, Instagram and TicTok communities of today, made meaningful contributions to the magazine through Letters to the Editor, article submissions, reports of club and community work, and last but not least, recipes. It was about women connecting with women when many lived in isolated areas with a uniquely rural, labor-intensive set of circumstances.

Being a farmer’s wife with a driving curiosity of agrarian and domestic history, I find the articles in The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine for Farm Women captivating and informative. I also find it unfortunate that this wonderful glimpse into the lives of our fore-mothers is hidden away in the pages of these century-old magazines and newspapers never to really see the light of day. As a way of showing appreciation for the path that was paved for me by strong, hardworking women, it is my quest to breathe life into some of these forgotten treasures by transcribing the most in-depth and inspiring pages and posting them here on my blog, The Farmer’s Wife, where others like me can celebrate the capable women that came before us. Please join me.

Elaine