Northern Illinois University Press

The Rural Midwest Since WWII

J.L. Anderson

The Rural Midwest marks a significant contribution to the revival of Midwestern regional history. Anderson’s work is sure to spark greater interest in and more research into this region’s recent history.” —Kansas History

“A collection that works, which is surely something that any Midwesterner can appreciate.” —The Michigan Historical Review

“An essential contribution to understanding the history of Iowa and the rural Midwest.” —The Annals of Iowa

This collection is about the rural Midwest since World War II, a place and time that popular writers have characterized with a narrative of decline. Contemporary media reports continue to focus on depopulation, environmental degradation, farm crises, and resistance to change. Rural Midwesterners have indeed confronted and created challenges, but the emphasis on decline has obscured contrary trends. The contributors to this collection see Midwesterners as dynamic people who shaped the physical and social landscapes of the expansive midsection of the nation and demonstrated vitality and leadership in response to turbulent times.

The rural Midwest has received little scholarly attention compared to other regions. This is because the region is often the standard by which other regions’ distinctiveness has been measured. Midwestern farms and rural areas have been viewed as typical rural American landscapes. Postwar changes in the rural Midwest appear modest and unexciting when compared to the United Farm Workers’ strikes in California or the violence and drama of Freedom Summer in Mississippi. Even the urban Midwest, which experienced wrenching and violent economic, political, environmental, and social conflict in the postwar period, appears to have undergone more dramatic change than the rural heartland. The predominance and continuity of corn, wheat, hogs, and cattle in the Midwestern landscape have masked agricultural diversity and shifts in land use. Farmers in the region have successfully raised many other commodities, from dairy and cherries to mint and sugar beets. The Midwest has also been a place where community leaders fought to improve their economic and social well-being, women redefined their roles on the farm, and minorities asserted their version of the American Dream.

While the contributors to the present volume are mostly Midwesterners by birth or residence, they are not required to sing the praises of rural Midwesterners or, by contrast, to assume the position of Midwestern modesty and self-deprecation. These authors seek to better understand a particular piece of rural America, a place too often caricatured, misunderstood, and ignored.

Dec. (2013) 335pp., 25 illus.
paper $28.95

J.L. Anderson is Associate Professor of History at Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta. He earned his PhD at Iowa State University and is the author of Industrializing the Corn Belt: Agriculture, Technology, and Environment, 1945–1972, published by Northern Illinois University Press.

Table of Contents

J.L. Anderson 
1—A Landscape Transformed: Ecosystems and Natural Resources in the  Midwest
James Pritchard
2—Ecology, Economy, Labor: The Midwestern Farm Landscape since 1945
Kendra Smith-Howard 
3—Beyond the Rust Bowl: The Neglected History of the Rural Midwest’s  Industrialization after World War II
Wilson J. Warren
4—Midwestern Rural Communities in the Post World War II Era
Cornelia Butler Flora and Jan L. Flora
5—Uneasy Dependency: Rural and Farm Policy and the Midwest since 1945
J.L. Anderson
6—Farm Women in the Midwest since 1945
Jenny Barker Devine
7—Childhood in the Rural Midwest since 1945
Pamela Riney-Kehrberg
8—“The Whitest of Occupations”?: African Americans in the Rural  Midwest, 1940–2010
Debra A. Reid
9—Hispanics in the Rural Midwest since 1945
Jim Norris 
10—Internal Alternate: Midwestern Amish since 1945
Steven D. Reschly
Conclusion—The Indistinct Distinctiveness of Rural Midwestern Culture
David Danbom

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ISBN: 9780875806945
paper $28.95