Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Farmer's Wife Magazine

If you have farmers in your family between the late 1800s and about 1939, you probably also have farm wives in your family.  And if you happen to be interested in social history and learning more about the lives those grandmothers of yours lived and the challenges they faced, you may be happy to know that you can view 399 issues of The Farmer's Wife Magazine, made available through Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.  Of course, there's no way of knowing if one of your farmers' wives read the magazine but with over a million subscribers, it seems possible.

The magazine changed through the years to keep up with society, inventions, etc., but each issue has articles that cover a variety of topics.  For example, the November, 1915, issue has the following articles.
  • As A Background:  Restful Treatment of Walls Needed in Every Home (home decorating)
  • Imitating Sunlight:  Up-to-date Farm Lighting Adds Cheer on Winter Evenings
  • Mother-Wisdom:  Life-long Health and Efficiency Are in the Balance (pregnancy and childbirth)
  • Table Talk:  All Hands Unite in Preparing the Thanksgiving Feast (recipes)
  • Our Home Circle:  Friendly Advice from the Circle's Members (challenges some of the readers faced and how they handled them)
  • Rural Recreation:  Celebrating Thanksgiving Day in Church and School
  • Contemplation Corner:  Mother Obeys Every Day of Her life (mothering and child development)
  • Some Simple Styles:  Fashions Fancy Still Clings to Serviceable One-Piece Frocks (fashion)
  • Keeping Customers:  How to Hold a Steady Trade in Sweet Butter and Cream Cheeses
  • Poultry Pointers:  In Healthful Winter Quarters, Hens Will Lay Eggs
  • In the Diary:  Matchless Care of Good Utensils Essential to Profits in Butter Making
  • Our Young Folks:  Thanksgiving is a Good Time To Help Someone Smile!

Other issues include articles about managing money, needlework and crafts (called "fancy work"), music, and the perennial topics of gardening and poultry and dairy management, among other topics.  Of course, no magazine is complete without advertisements which give an indication of interests of the readers and costs of items for purchase.

Choose the issue you'd like to view from a calendar or from a list of publication dates.  When the issue you've chosen comes onto the screen, you'll see a list of all the articles in that issue on the left side of  your screen. 

Click on one of the articles to go to the page with the article on it.  You'll be able to view the image of the page and enlarge it.  The article will also be transcribed on the left side of the screen.  The transcription will not be perfect and, in some cases, may seem more like gibberish than English.  (Not a problem because you can read it or download it as a pdf for better reading.) 

The Farmer's Wife Magazine had beautifully illustrated covers that reflected the time period in which they were created.  The Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection presents them only as black and white images.

I'm most interested in reading the November 1912 issue of The Farmer's Wife Magazine.  My grandmother was a farmer's wife, pregnant with my father.  It was her last Thanksgiving alive.  She may or may not have read the magazine but it will be interesting to learn what topics were presented for the ladies to read.

I know this won't help you find one of your ancestors (unless he/she was an advertiser or writer) but it may help you place an ancestor in the context of her environment.

Happy reading!


Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. I love finding the social history of the times and things like this magazine allow us to understand what was important to the farm wives back then. Thanks for the heads up! I will definitely check it out. (I also love the beautiful pictures in the old magazines.)

    1. I, too, like learning what was of interest to the women among my ancestors. Even though much of this magazine is focused on farm topics there is plenty that covers other aspects of women's lives and makes it representative of the thoughts and teachings of the times. I only wish it started publication earlier!

  2. What fun! I'll have to take some time to look at this!

    1. Yes, very fun. In fact, I wondered if Natasha might enjoy some of the articles (since she's living on a farm).

  3. Thanks for telling us about this resource, Nancy! I come from a long line of farm families, so it'll be neat to see what the women were reading and doing, as well as what the prevailing advice was on child-rearing and such. Can't wait to take a look.

    1. You're welcome, Shelley. I hope you find the resource helpful.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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