Putting the Barn Before the House
Women and Family Farming in Early Twentieth-Century New York
Putting the Barn Before the House features the voices and viewpoints of women born before World War I who lived on family farms in south-central New York. As she did in her previous book, Bonds of Community, for an earlier period in history, Grey Osterud explores the flexible and varied ways that families shared labor and highlights the strategies of mutuality that women adopted to ensure they had a say in family decision making. Sharing and exchanging work also linked neighboring households and knit the community together. Indeed, the culture of cooperation that women espoused laid the basis for the formation of cooperatives that enabled these dairy farmers to contest the power of agribusiness and obtain better returns for their labor. Osterud recounts this story through the words of the women and men who lived it and carefully explores their views about gender, labor, and power, which offered an alternative to the ideas that prevailed in American society.