22 February 2022
For close to two hundred years, families and individuals across Ontario have travelled down country roads and gathered to enjoy seasonal agricultural fairs. Though some features of township and county fairs have endured for generations, these community events have also undergone significant transformations since 1850, especially in terms of women’s participation.
Cultivating Community tells the story of how women’s involvement became critical to agricultural fairs’ growth and prosperity. By examining women’s diverse roles as agricultural society members, fair exhibitors, performers, volunteers, and fairgoers, Jodey Nurse shows that women used fairs’ manifold nature to present different versions of rural womanhood. Although traditional domestic skills and handicrafts, such as baking, needlework, and flower arrangement, remained the domain of women throughout this period, women steadily enlarged their sphere of influence on the fairgrounds. By the mid-twentieth century they had staked out a place in venues previously closed to them, including the livestock show ring, the athletic field, and the boardroom.
Through a wealth of fascinating stories and colourful detail, Cultivating Communities adds a new dimension to the social and cultural history of rural women, placing their activities at the centre of the agricultural fair.