This study follows the thread of gender divisions in dairying in Denmark and the American Midwest in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.Gender organization of dairying shifted at this time in diverse European and North American contexts. As agriculture mechanized and production scale increased, access to advanced education and international markets became critical. Women, who had been in the forefront of the development of dairying, ceded their leadership to men as these changes occurred. While some scholars see this shift as a strategic loss for women, this study finds that variables of class, marital status, rural demographics, and alternative occupations mediated the rural women’s experience of change. Not all women experienced the change as a loss. The question of which women were invested in dairying is critical to understanding the course of change. Increasingly, middle-class farm women were turning away from the hard work of dairying and investing themselves in new ways in the upward mobility of their family farms. Rural life shaped distinct gender patterns in European and American history, and the rural experience shaped the larger trajectory of women’s economic and political evolution, even though few rural women were involved in the organized women’s movement.

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