The decades following the Civil War saw a proliferation of reform ideas about rural life, labor, and family and gender roles. Clara Bewick Colby's “Farmers' Wives” was a particularly robust example of women's late nineteenth-century oratory that used a gendered analysis to inform audiences about barriers preventing farmwomen from achieving their full potential; it also offered solutions to those problems. Addresses made by Colby and others were foundational to creating a modern image of the farm wife. Read in context with women's oratory on similar topics, speeches by Colby and others illuminate the views of progressive rural women in the emerging middle class who worked to advance the lives of farmwomen.

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