Jane McKimmon, a Pioneer for Women
Jane S. McKimmon had a career as the leader of North Carolina home demonstration agents. McKimmon was considered to be a pioneer in the field of home economics, and she helped to change the way that women aided and cared for their families.
McKimmon was born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1867 and was able to graduate from Peace Institute when she was just sixteen years old. As an adult, McKimmon continued to live in Raleigh, but Raleigh was very different from the way it is today. Very few families lived in the city and most lived on farms in homes without electricity or indoor plumbing. Most families were required to be self-sufficient, meaning they grew and made almost all of the food they needed to survive. Supermarkets and grocery stores, like those that exist today, were not around to provide farm families with produce and baking supplies.
Jane McKimmon became interested in improving the lives of farm families and became a speaker for the Farmer's Institute. The Farmer's Institute worked to improve the lives of farmers and their families by sharing agricultural research with them, helping to increase their knowledge about good agricultural practices and nutrition needs. McKimmon was originally hired to improve girls' canning clubs, but had soon expanded the home demonstration agency much further.
In response to the boys only Corn Clubs that were booming in North Carolina at the time, McKimmon began to take charge of a similar program for young girls. With the help of other leaders, McKimmon decided that growing and canning tomatoes was a more appropriate task for girls than growing corn. Growing and canning tomatoes took place in the garden and home, not in the hot and dirty fields, so it was deemed appropriate for girls. Thus, Tomato Clubs grew as a way for young girls from farm families to learn and practice new agricultural techniques.
During the years of World War I, many farm families did not have enough food to provide for their whole family. McKimmon helped to promote community canneries where women and girls could go and learn how to properly can their food so that it would not spoil and could provide for their families in times of scarcity. Additionally, McKimmon encouraged participation in Saturday markets where women could sell homemade baked goods to bring extra income into their homes. When the Great Depression brought hard times for families nationwide, McKimmon assisted in the Office of Relief to bring food and supplies to farm families in greatest need. In addition to her work with the North Carolina Extension Service, McKimmon wrote a book called When We're Green, We Grow in 1945. Her book was about how the Extension Service had changed and grown throughout the twentieth century.
Jane S. McKimmon was an extraordinary women who made groundbreaking changes in the North Carolina Extension Service in the twentieth century. At a time when women were considered to be inferior to men, McKimmon fought for their rights within the Extension Service. For the first time ever, McKimmon gave women roles within their farming families and the Extension Service that were equally as important to those that the men were doing.