What a fantastic week.
I’m having fun digging through and organizing my sources into their respective niches. It seems like the more I search the more I discover just how essential the production and consumption of food was to this little corner of America. And the more I discover food as essential to the identity of Stevens County, the more I realize just how influential women were in keeping the darn thing running. Now, I’m no stranger to gendered history. In fact, most of my academic research has been conducted through a gendered lens, but the extent to which women both as prominent figures and as rank and file dominated the community during World War I is astonishing. One figure in particular, Ida F. Hancock, was instrumental to the war effort. Mrs. Hancock was the Madam Chairman of the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Public Safety Commission for Stevens County and was responsible for tasks such as “Americanization, food conservation, child welfare, and various special subjects having to do with the financing of the war.” What initially struck me about Mrs. Hancock, other than the enormous amount of letters she left to posterity, was the vigor with which she pursued every wartime cause. Her stamp and signature could be seen on letters reprimanding soldiers on leave for offensive behavior — it didn’t matter if it was promiscuous remarks made to young women, or if they consumed too much fat at a local diner — she made it be know that their transgressions were detrimental to the war effort. Yes, this is deferential politics on the surface. BUT, towards the end of the war we start to see a dramatic shift within the writings of Mrs. Hancock, coinciding with the suffragist movement. That’s all I’ll say for now, but come back in about two weeks and check out the site for more on the role of women in Steven’s County. On that note I’ll sign off with what Mrs. Hancock said best: “we have great work yet to do.”