I am Jenny Barker Devine, a historian of the American Midwest. My work considers how women living in rural spaces and small towns sustained their communities through formal institutions and informal social networks. More than fly-over country, I see the Midwest as a cultural borderlands with a vibrant and turbulent past that offers glimpses into how Americans have negotiated social, political, and cultural expectations over time.
I am Professor of History at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois. A 4-year, private, Phi Beta Kappa college founded in 1829, IC was the first institution in the state to grant baccalaureate degrees.
My first book, On Behalf of the Family Farm, traces the development of women’s activism and agrarian feminisms in the Midwest after 1945, as the realities of modern agriculture transformed farm women’s lives. In an era when technology, depopulation, and rapid economic change dramatically altered rural life, midwestern women met these challenges with their own feminine vision of farm life. Their “agrarian feminisms” offered an alternative to, but not necessarily a rejection of, second-wave feminism.
Honorable Mention, Benjamin F. Shambaugh Award for the most significant book published in Iowa history, State Historical Society of Iowa, 2014. Check it out at the University of Iowa Press.
Articles and Book Chapters
“3,000 Tons to Lose: The Iowa Cooperative Extension Service, Farm Women, and Weight Control, 1948-1961,” in Back Stories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook, forthcoming from the Digital Press of the University of North Dakota (2021).
“A Stamp of Femininity”: The Sorosis Literary Society, Women’s Intellectual Discourse, and Regional Identity in Jacksonville, Illinois, 1865-1900 in Jon K. Lauck, Paul Murphy, Andrew Seal, Joe Hogan, and Gleaves Whitney, eds., The Sower and the Seer: Perspectives on the Intellectual History of the American Midwest, forthcoming from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press (2021).
“When the Metadata Doesn’t Help: Constructing Frameworks for an Ambiguous Region,” Middle West Review 5, no. 2 (Spring 2019), 51-56.
“‘Why, you can be a journalist, kid’: The Emerald Goose and Women’s Journalism at Iowa State College During the First World War,” Annals of Iowa 75, no. 4 (Fall 2016), 376-405.
“Rural Women” in Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, ed. in The Routledge History of Rural America (New York: Routledge, 2016), 121-135.
“Sustaining the Conversation: The Farm Crisis and the Midwest,” with co-editor David D. Vail, Middle West Review 1, no. 2 (Fall 2015), 1-7. Served as guest editor for this special issue on the farm crisis of the 1980s.
“Revisiting Rural Women’s Studies,” with co-editors Jeannie Whayne and Linda Ambrose, Agricultural History 89, no. 3 (Summer 2015), 380-387. Served as guest editor for this special issue on new directions in rural women’s studies.
“Putting the Farm First: Feminism and Rural American Women’s Activism in the Twentieth Century,” with Sara Egge, in Feminisms and Ruralities, Barbara Pini, Berit Brandth, and J.K. Little, eds. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015.
“Farm Women in the Rural Midwest Since 1945,” in The Rural Midwest Since 1945, J.L. Anderson, ed. DeKalb: University of Northern Illinois Press, 2014.
“The Secret to a Successful Farm Organization”: Township Farm Bureau Women’s Clubs in Iowa, 1945-1970,” Annals of Iowa 69, no. 4 (Fall 2010), 41-73.
“The Answer to the Auxiliary Syndrome: Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE) and New Organizing Strategies for Farm Women, 1976-1985,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 30, no. 3 (2009), 117-141.
“‘Hop to the Top With the Iowa Chop’: The Iowa Porkettes and Cultivating Feminism in the Midwest, 1964-1992,” Agricultural History 83, no. 4 (Fall 2009), 477-502.
“Loyal and Forever True: Student Life at Iowa State University, 1868-2000,” in Dorothy Schwieder, ed., Tradition and Transformation: A Sesquicentennial History of Iowa State University (Ames: Iowa State University Press), 2007.
“The Farmer and the Atom: The Iowa State Cooperative Extension Service and Rural Civil Defense, 1955-1970,” Annals of Iowa 66, no. 2 (Spring 2007), 161-194.
“Mightier Than Missiles: The Rhetoric of Civil Defense for American Farm Families, 1950-1970,” Agricultural History 80, no.4 (Fall 2006), 415–435.
“Quite a Ripple But No Revolution”: The Changing Roles of Women in the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation,” Annals of Iowa 64, no.1 (Winter 2005), 1-36.
- 2008 PhD in Agricultural History and Rural Studies from Iowa State University
- 2003 MA in History from Iowa State University
- 2000 BA in History and International Studies from the University of Central Missouri