Beginning in the 1870s, kerosene stoves became fixtures in many farm kitchens, as households shifted from wood or coal to oil fuel. Surveys during the 1930s reveal that, outside of cities, oil was afar more common cooking fuel than gas. Yet the literature on farm and rural women says little about this important energy transition before electricity and gas. For rural and farm households, where the alternative was coal or wood, oil offered significant benefits, and to farm women especially it was a godsend. Oil was cleaner, quicker, cooler, lighter, and more portable; it changed women’s work patterns and improved their economic status. Thus, focusing on the transition from wood and coal to electricity and gas in home heating and cooking misses a step. Moreover, as this story reveals, energy transitions differed between men and women and were contingent upon economic status and place of residence. Especially for women in rural and farm households, kerosene provided an important bridge fuel to the newer age of gas and electricity. To ignore it is to ignore what was for many an important introduction to modern times.

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