University of Tennessee Creates Digital Archive Documenting the Work of Its First Home Demonstration Agent

The University of Tennessee Libraries has created a new online digital archive documenting the work of Virginia P. Moore, the university’s first home demonstration agent who worked with women and girls on rural farms in the state in the early years of the twentieth century.

Virginia Pearl Moore was born in 1880 in Gallatin, Tennessee. She graduated from Peabody Normal School in Nashville. After teaching briefly at a rural school near her hometown, she was appointed state organizer of School Improvement Work in 1909 with Tennessee’s Department of Education.

In 1914, Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act establishing extension services at land-grant universities. As a result, Moore became assistant director and State Home Demonstration Agent for Tennessee, working with the University of Tennessee and the Division of Extension at the College of Agriculture. Moore started canning clubs in rural areas teaching women and girls to cultivate and preserve their own produce. Her home demonstration work expanded to incorporate all aspects of domestic life, including cooking, sewing, cleaning, and managing home finances. By 1916, she was the supervisor of 32 home demonstration agents.

The Virginia P. Moore Collection, documenting Moore’s life and career, was donated to the University of Tennessee 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 reports from the canning clubs with which she worked.

Filed Under: Women's Studies

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