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Digital Collection Spotlights Tennessee’s First Home Demonstration Agent

Virginia P. Moore was Tennessee’s first home demonstration agent. Her work with farm women and rural girls in the early 20th century is documented in a new digital collection created by the University of Tennessee Libraries.

The Virginia P. Moore Collection can be viewed online at digital.lib.utk.edu/vpmoore.

Moore organized canning clubs in rural counties, teaching girls to cultivate and preserve their own produce, as well as introducing them to new home conveniences. Many photographs in the digital collection feature canning club girls at state fairs and canning competitions or tending their garden plots.

Farm and home demonstration work arose out of the Progressive movement, which sought to better people’s lives, especially through education. Legislation enacted in the late 19th and early 20th century created land-grant colleges (Morrill Act, 1862), established agricultural experiment stations (Hatch Act, 1887), and sent demonstration agents into rural areas to share the latest research on improved farming and homemaking practices (Smith-Lever Act, 1914).

Moore worked as a rural teacher, then as an organizer of school improvement associations, upgrading rural schools. In 1910, she became Tennessee’s first home demonstration agent, working with women and girls in developing canning clubs. With passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, she moved from Nashville to Knoxville to become assistant director in charge of home demonstration work in the new Division of Extension under UT’s College of Agriculture. By 1916, Moore had 32 home demonstration agents reporting to her at the county level, as well as two district-level agents in East and West Tennessee.

Today, UT Extension, the outreach unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture, continues to improve lives by delivering research-based information to citizens throughout the state.

The Virginia P. Moore Collection, documenting Moore’s life and career, was donated to UT Libraries’ Special Collections by her great-niece. In addition to the photographs that were digitized for the online collection, donated materials include Moore’s notes, letters, and publications, as well as recipes and club reports from the canning clubs with which she worked.

Special Collections acquires and preserves collections of manuscripts, books, printed ephemera, maps, and other unique research materials for use by researchers from around the world.

Read a lengthier article about Virginia P. Moore at http://tiny.utk.edu/vpmoore.pdf.

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Pictured above (from the Virginia P. Moore Collection, Special Collections, University of Tennessee Libraries):
1) Sealing contest at the Tennessee State Fair, 1912. Virginia P. Moore is on the far right.
2) Mrs. J. J. Hardin giving pruning demonstration to four members.
3) Two Hamilton County canning club members with exhibit of canned produce and baked goods.

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