Women held a central place in long-settled rural communities like the Nanticoke Valley in upstate New York during the late nineteenth century. Their lives were limited by the bonds of kinship and labor, but farm women found strength in these bonds as well. Although they lacked control over land and were second-class citizens, these rural women did not occupy a ""separate sphere."" Individually and collectively, they responded to inequality by actively enlarging the dimensions of sharing in their relationships with men.
Nancy Grey Osterud uses a rich store of diaries, letters, and other first-person documents, in addition to public and organizational records, to reconstruct the everyday lives of ordinary women of the past. Exploring large questions within the confines of a single community, she analyzes the ways in which notions of gender structured women's interactions with their families and neighbors, their place in the farm family economy, and their participation in organized community activities.
Rare turn-of-the-century photographs of the rural landscape, formal and informal family portraits, and scenes of daily life and labor add a special dimension to Bonds of Community. It should find a ready audience among women's historians, labor historians, rural historians, and historians of New York State.