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Manitoba History: Professionalism, Intellectual Practice, and the Educational State Structure in Manitoba Agriculture, 1890-1925

by Jeffery M. Taylor
Department of History, University of Manitoba

Manitoba History, Number 18, Autumn 1989

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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John Bracken, President, Manitoba Agricultural College, 1920.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

The institutions of agricultural education that developed in Manitoba before 1925 were part of a broader North American pattern in agricultural education, in education generally, and in the history of bureaucratic state structures. In a thirty-five year period the field of agricultural and domestic knowledge was systematized and professionalized through the emergence of specific disciplines at the college level and the tightening of central direction and control at the extension level. By the twenties professionally trained agricultural and home economics academics were producing and disseminating knowledge in the Manitoba Agricultural College (MAC), professional staff were working in the extension service and the school system, and professional identities were being consolidated in provincial and continental (rarely national) associations. Particularly in the area of social knowledge, disciplinary structures emerged in Manitoba to parallel broader North American developments, with agricultural economics and home economics employing the theoretical categories and methodological approaches of “American” domestic and rural social science. Although voluntary and informal exchange of knowledge by farm men and women was prevalent in the nineteenth century, by the 1920s agrarian professionals had systematized and now dominated agrarian intellectual practice.


Coincident with the extension of capitalist relations and the transition to industrial capitalism in nineteenth century North America, institutional and bureaucratic structures gradually emerged to assume responsibility for various social “problems” that had previously been handled by families or social groups. From early to mid-century specialised reform-oriented organizations were created for the treatment of crime, poverty, ignorance, disease, mental illness, and juvenile delinquency. Mental hospitals, school systems, reformatories, and penitentiaries characteristically evolved through a two stage process from private corporations controlled by wealthy citizens and staffed by generalists to publicly controlled bodies based upon expert and specialized administration. By the end of the century bureaucratic state structures were in place in North America which, while small by late twentieth century standards, were qualitatively different from the customary and informal methods of dealing with social and personal problems which existed prior to 1800.

The most significant element in the new regime was the development of state supported primary and secondary education. As the revisionist historiography of the past fifteen years has shown, by the 1880s middle class reformers in Ontario and other industrialising areas of North America had fashioned public, and ultimately compulsory, school systems out of the private and haphazard educational practices they inherited from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Faced with the perceived problems of crime and poverty, ethnic diversity through immigration, lack of “useful knowledge,” unruly working class and idle middle class youth, and the necessity of training a proletariat in the rhythms of factory work, reformers viewed education as a means of encouraging and regulating the social changes associated with the development of capitalism. Given the interaction between their size and purposes, these systems came to be structured and governed as large scale bureaucracies. Educators and their supporters, faced with complex administrative problems on the one hand and the nepotism and uncertainties of the political process on the other, drew upon the capitalist model of work organisation to rationalise, co-ordinate, and make their schools function as effectively as possible. Like the factory, these systems were hierarchical and differentiated, combining an extensive division of labour with an authoritarian command structure. At the bottom were the legions of teachers, increasingly women at the primary level as the century progressed, who used only approved instructional materials in their classroom work and were trained in the appropriate pedagogies at Normal Schools. Immediately above the teachers, at the board level, were principals and superintendents who managed the local system and maintained contact with the elected board officials. At the state and provincial level, finally, departmental officials developed and dispensed curricular and administrative policy, while teams of inspectors ensured that central decisions were implemented and followed locally. [1]

One effect of state funding and the bureaucratization of education was the creation of conditions for the professionalization of teaching and, hence, the creation of a contradiction in the social identity of teachers. While imposed bureaucracy ensured the teachers’ loss of control over their work process, it also entailed the establishment of specialist training, entrance requirements, and an occupational association marking teachers as professionals. As a group, therefore, they seemed to straddle the boundary between proletarian and professional existence. This development was, in fact, part of a larger change in the latter half of the nineteenth century as the term “professional” came to be applied to a larger group of vocations than the traditional trio of doctors, lawyers, and clergy. Rooted in the bourgeois values of achievement, ability, and equality of opportunity, professionalism was a type of status acquired through the mastery of a specific area of knowledge. It was, at its core, an individualist philosophy focusing on personal development and enhancement through the pursuit of a career. Beginning in this period, various areas of knowledge were “professionalized” in North America when, characteristically, their leaders established educational qualifications requiring academic training, formed associations to shield the elect from the non-elect, started journals, fashioned specialist vocabularies and, in the case of academic professions, initiated the career oriented production of endless publications. The central institution in the “culture of professionalism” was the modern university. Higher education in the later nineteenth century was in the early stages of a transition from colleges dispensing religious and ethical instruction for the elite to large institutions reproducing the whole range of social and technical knowledge for use in a bourgeois society. Indeed the university was becoming a microcosm of that society, characterised as it was by “careerism, competition, the standardization of rules and the organization of hierarchies, [and] the obsession with growth and expansion.” [2]

State funding and organization of agricultural education accompanied the expansion of public schooling and the transformation of higher education. Privately organized agricultural societies flourished in early nineteenth century North America as the primary method for the dissemination of agricultural knowledge, giving way to government directed agricultural colleges and farmers’ and women’s institutes in the latter part of the century. North American higher education in agriculture effectively dates from the formation of Michigan Agricultural College in 1855. But it was not until after the passage of the Morrill Act in 1862, which provided federal funding through land grants for agricultural and mechanical training, that a system of American agricultural colleges began to be established. The pattern that evolved was for funds to be applied either to private colleges (Rutgers in New Jersey) or, more commonly, state universities (Wisconsin) or state agricultural colleges (Iowa, North Dakota). In Canada, the Ontario Agricultural College was established in 1880 as a publicly funded and, at least initially, unaffiliated institution. Although college growth was slow in the early years, systematic investigation in the agricultural sciences was established in the late nineteenth century, especially after the creation of a system of experimental stations in both countries in 1886. In the period after 1890, and especially after the turn of the century, state funded agricultural colleges expanded and flourished across the continent, following the model of the new universities with which they were often aligned. Intellectuals working within the institutions became increasingly professional, while administrators—most often members of the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experimental Stations—increasingly applied business models to college organization. [3]

Farmers’ institutes emerged in the late 1870s and early 1880s to supplement the efforts of agricultural societies in disseminating agricultural knowledge to farmers. Institutes expanded throughout North America during the 1880s and 1890s under the direction of agricultural colleges or boards/departments of agriculture. In these bodies both professional staff and working farmers conducted lecture programmes in rural communities. With the expansion of colleges after the turn of the century, and the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in the United States and the Agricultural Instruction Act in Canada during 1914, systematic, fully staffed government extension services overtook farmers’ institutes and agricultural societies as the primary forms of outreach and adult education. By the 1920s, in states and provinces throughout North America, wide ranging extension services employing county agents, home demonstration agents, and specialists in various topics were offering instruction and service to farm women and men. [4]

Manitoba Agricultural College staff, 1920.
Source: Archives of Manitoba


The Manitoba Agricultural College was established in 1905 on the advice of a commission appointed in 1901 to investigate agricultural education in the province. [5] It existed as a more or less distinct entity until 1924 when it was incorporated into the University of Manitoba as the Faculty of Agriculture and Home Economics. [6] In that twenty year period the foundation was laid for teaching and research in the agricultural and domestic sciences. By the time the college became a faculty, it had a professional orientation marked by academically trained administrators and an extensive disciplinary structure.

This process may be glimpsed in the history of the college presidency. MAC had five presidents during its existence: W. J. Black, 1905-1915; J. B. Reynolds, 1915-1920; John Bracken, 1920-1922; C. H. Lee (acting president), 1922-1924; and W. C. McKillican who, in 1924, was the last president of MAC and the first Dean of Agriculture and Home Economics. W. J. Black was a graduate of OAC who came to the presidency from The Farmers’ Advocate. An ambitious man, he was no doubt responsible for MAC’s transformation into an independent institution in 1913. His initial appointment was due to his Conservative party connections, and this inevitably led to his dismissal by the Liberals in 1915. [7] J. B. Reynold’s appointment as Black’s replacement represented something of a transition in the way the MAC presidency was perceived and the way MAC president’s were appointed. Reynolds and his three successors were all career agricultural scientists or agricultural academics. Reynolds was on the faculty of OAC prior to coming to MAC, and returned to the presidency there in 1920; Bracken was employed as a Dominion government crop scientist, the Saskatchewan government director of Farmers’ Institutes, and professor of field husbandry at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture before his MAC appointment; C. H. Lee had been on the MAC faculty since 1909; and W. C. McKillican came from the superintendency of the Brandon Experimental Farm. Although Black employed the language of scientific agriculture, and was connected with the American Association of Agricultural Colleges and Farmers’ Institutes, he represented an older voluntarist approach to agricultural knowledge: not only was he politically partisan, but he was formed as an educator more by practical farming and agricultural journalism than by academic training. Reynolds and his successors, meanwhile, were committed agricultural scientists who trained, worked, and made their careers in the new educational institutions. [8]

More substantially, though, the specific histories of home economics and agricultural economics reveal how the paraphernalia of academic professionalism became established in agricultural education. By the 1890s, and concur-rent with professionalizing initiatives in other areas of knowledge, North American home economics was becoming organized as a discipline. The most significant aspect of this endeavour was the series of Lake Placid conferences which began in 1899 and culminated in 1908 with the formation of the American Home Economics Association (AHEA). During this decade home economists established their claim to have their domain considered a legitimate area of expertise. The first conference abandoned the name “household arts” in favour of home economics, hoping that a linguistic identification with economics might be a first step in easing the way into college and university curricula. And a conference committee later recommended a number of strategies for colonizing various curricular areas: household management in economics; family studies in sociology; nutrition and the chemistry of foods in natural science; and family history and the history of the home in history. At the tenth conference, besides formally establishing the AHEA, delegates decided to publish a journal, form state organizations, establish a dues structure, and encourage secondary and primary teachers to join the association. [9]

Home economics instruction commenced at MAC shortly after the organisation of the AHEA. In the summer of 1910 twenty-one women took the first course offered by the newly formed Department of Household Science. It was the fall of 1911, however, before a regular two-year course of study was implemented for which students received a diploma. In 1914 the diploma programme was supplemented by a special course for teachers and a professional course for diploma graduates seeking employment in institutions. One year later a three-year course, for which the diploma was a prerequisite, was added to provide degree level training which, in 1920, became a separate five-year programme. [10]

Between 1911 and 1919, and largely as a result of the introduction of the degree programme in 1915, the home economics curriculum grew from ten to approximately forty courses offering instruction in the social, medical, and natural sciences. [11] After 1915 courses were organized into household science and household arts departments. But with the overall reorganization of the MAC curriculum in 1919-1920, there was a realignment of home economics courses towards more precise disciplinary boundaries. Gone were the old categories of household arts and household science, replaced by nine course groupings having the appearance of departments without, as yet, possessing departmental apparatus. Hence, in 1919 home economics students encountered a curricular structure that included cookery, foods and nutrition, clothing, housing, textiles, physiology and hygiene, household management, pedagogy, and institutional management. In the 1920s the curriculum became more streamlined as the number of regular courses dropped from forty-two to forty, and the number of general areas shrank from nine to seven. [12]

Manitoba Agricultural College, Tuxedo, 1911.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Unlike the MAC presidency, which underwent a transition to professionalism in the teens, the home economics division had a professional orientation from its inception in 1910. A.B. Juniper, the first director, was attracted to MAC from the deanship of household science at Macdonald College (McGill), and later went on to the principalship of a domestic science college in England. Her successor was E. Charlton-Salisbury, trained at Rochester Polytechnic and formerly employed at Women’s Union Domestic Science College in Buffalo, New York. From 1915 to 1925, there were three more directors, all with good academic backgrounds. These were E. M. Eadie (from Mount Allison and University of Toronto), Mary Kelso (trained at OAC), and Mary Hiltz (a Columbia University graduate). More significantly, though, MAC faculty (especially Juniper) were instrumental in the formation of the Manitoba Home Economics Association in 1911. All three MAC home economists were present, along with four other women, at the inaugural meeting in January of that year. The aims of the association included contact with the AHEA, provincial agitation for a home economics experimental station, and general liaison between the women of Manitoba and the manufacturers of household products. Membership was limited to women actually employed in the profession, although associate memberships were available and the formation of a “Housewives League” was discussed in 1912 as a kind of house-keeper’s auxiliary. Association activities, beyond regular meetings, consisted mainly of trips to commercial establishments in the food sector. During 1911 and 1912 members visited Milton Bakery, Crescent Creamery, Paulin Chambers, and the restaurant at Eaton’s. [13]

The discipline of agricultural economics took form in North America between the 1890s and the 1920s. Two distinct groups—agronomists studying farm management in agricultural colleges and economists analyzing the broader agricultural economy in universities—were involved in its creation. Farm management emerged out of the general agricultural courses, taught in nineteenth century agricultural colleges, that treated the whole range of agricultural practice as a single area of study. As other specializations such as field husbandry and animal husbandry developed, courses in “agriculture” and “agronomy” were narrowed to topics of farm organization and the business of farming. By the turn of the century agronomists were borrowing economists’ techniques in order to study management practices on individual farms. In 1902, for example, the Minnesota Agricultural Experimental Station, under the direction of Andrew Boss, began a series of cost of production studies whereby farmers, working with specialists, kept detailed records of actual farm costs. At about the same time, George Warren of Cornell initiated survey methods, involving personal interviews with farmers to ascertain their incomes and expenses. In 1913 Warren published Farm Management as a college text which systematized the work that he, Boss, and others had been doing over the previous ten to fifteen years. [14] Moreover, in 1910 these and other agronomists, who were all concentrating on farm management, formed the American Farm Management Association as an expression of their disciplinary and professional aspirations. During the same period university economists such as Henry Taylor and Thomas Nixon Carver, focusing their attention on what they called “rural economics” or “farm economics,” attempted to establish a place for agriculture within the discipline of economics. [15] They pressured the American Economics Association to form a Farm Economics section, but when this proposal was rejected by the AEA they established the National Association of Farm Economists in 1910. Through joint research projects and friendly overtures over the following decade a common ground was created between the two groups and, in 1919, the American Farm Management Association and the National Association of Farm Economists merged to form the American Farm Economics Association. Agricultural economics, as a unified discipline, may be dated from this merger. [16]

Agricultural economics was taught in various forms at MAC between 1907 and 1919. In 1919, however, the courses were brought together in a rural economics department which, in 1926, merged with rural sociology. Before 1916 there was no distinct farm management course. Rather, farm management was covered in agronomy or, more often, as part of field husbandry. Rural economics was first taught in 1910-1911, and continued until 1916 when it was incorporated with farm management for most levels of instruction. Between 1916 and 1919 courses varied among farm management, agricultural economics, and rural economics. Then, in 1919, the general curricular reorganisation produced a distinct department containing courses in farm business and accounting, farm management, economics, agricultural economics, and agricultural legislation. This structure remained relatively unchanged until 1925 when two marketing courses, two courses on farm movements and cooperation, and a course each on the economic geography of agriculture, finance, and statistics were added. Then, in the following year, the Department of Economics and Sociology was born. [17]

John Bracken (left) and T. C. Norris (second from left) at the Manitoba Agricultural College, Fort Garry, 1921.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

The emergence of agricultural economics as a discipline at MAC is reflected in the increasing specialization of the faculty who taught the subject between 1907 and 1926. Agronomy, in 1907-1908, and rural economics, between 1908 and 1910, were taught by Principal W. J. Black. Black, although trained at OAC, was a former agricultural journalist with no specialist training in agricultural economics. Similarly, the field husbandry instructors who taught farm management in the early years were natural scientists rather than economists. The 1914 appointment of George White as MAC’s first professor of farm management reflected both a move towards specialization and the retention of older attitudes to farm management instruction. White spent six months of the year at MAC and the other six months on his one thousand acre farm near LaSalle where, according to President Reynolds, he acquired “the practical experience and the scientific data specially necessary in farm management instruction.” Indeed Reynolds noted three components in White’s suitability for his job at MAC: his training at OAC; his business experience with the Grain Growers’ Grain Company (GGGC); and his work as a practical fanner. When he died in 1916 his work was divided, not among fellow faculty members, but between C. B. Piper of the Empire Elevator Company and Thomas Crerar of the GGGC. White’s eventual replacement, however, was Alva Benton, a trained agricultural economist. Benton, appointed in 1918, completed a doctorate in farm credit for the University of Wisconsin in 1921. He, in turn, was supplemented and eventually replaced by H. C. Grant, the first person to receive graduate training in agricultural economics in Manitoba. [18]


Rural adult education in Manitoba underwent an important transition in the early twentieth century. Between 1890 and 1925 the infrastructure expanded from a few semi-autonomous and local agricultural societies and farmers’ institutes, catering to a male elite, to a centralized apparatus built around MAC, ostensibly serving all farm women and men. Prior to 1907 the field was defined by the agricultural societies and farmers’ institutes. After that an extension service was established, becoming firmly entrenched during the decade of funding under the Agricultural Instruction Act.

Although they had existed in Manitoba since 1872, agricultural societies were being displaced by farmers’ institutes in the 1890s as the primary method of agricultural education. First formed in 1890, Manitoba institutes were coordinated by the Manitoba Central Farmers’ Institute (MCFI) unti11897 when the Department of Agriculture assumed direct control over the work. The MCFI, consisting of delegates from local institutes, met annually in convention throughout the nineties. These meetings consisted of two sorts of activities. First, papers were presented by speakers ranging from OAC people to Manitoba educators and Manitoba farmers. Second, delegates engaged in nonpartisan discussion of various public policy questions (partisan discussion was forbidden). [19]

Local institutes were held during the winter months, with two speakers normally attending each meeting. Afternoons were devoted to the presentation and discussion of papers, while evenings were reserved for socializing. In 1896 the nine institute lecturers delivered ninety-six lectures to institutes throughout the province. Not all institute meetings involved a visiting lecturer, however. The ideal, in fact, was to develop local discussion and debate around questions of agricultural improvement. In 1895, for example, the Melita institute produced a paper, discussion, and successful resolution characterizing agricultural societies as elitist, and proposing that society monies be diverted to the establishment of creameries and cheese factories. [20]

The institutes were only a slight improvement over the agricultural societies, however. Institute secretaries claimed that those presenting papers tended to be a small group of primarily older farmers and that they had a difficult time attracting younger farmers to meetings. The general pattern seemed to be that the older men attended the afternoon sessions while the younger men did chores. The young men then came out for the evening social event. And male exclusiveness was a problem. A farm woman suggested in 1897 that women should attend the regular meetings as well as the social events, since they were engaged in many productive activities on the farm. [21]

As a result of criticism directed at both the institutes and agricultural societies, the two educational methods were amalgamated in 1900. At the local level, institute work continued essentially as it had before, but under the control of agricultural society directors rather than institute secretaries. Provincially, however, the amalgamation marked the beginning of a transition from nineteenth century voluntarism to the state direction of the later extension service. In the early years of the decade the farm press was urging the provincial government to follow Ontario’s lead and appoint a superintendent of institute work. The 1905 appointment of W. J. Black as Deputy Minister of Agriculture, with a mandate to develop agricultural education, suggests the advice was being heeded. [22]

Black immediately took responsibility for agricultural societies and farmers’ institutes. After MAC opened (with Black as president), these activities became integrated into the work of the college. With faculty members to act as judges, the societies expanded their role beyond the sponsorship of fall and summer fairs. Winter seed fairs were added, as were standing grain crop and good farming competitions. Plowing matches, which had been held sporadically prior to Black’s appointment, became a regular feature of many society programmes. Institute were made more systematic and regular with a pool of faculty to draw upon as speakers. Short courses were initiated both in the country and at the college campus, which eventually replaced the institute meeting and lecture as the forum for discussions of agricultural improvement. [23]

Institutes for women began in 1910 with the organization of the first home economics societies. With the commencement of household science instruction in the college, Black instructed A. B. Juniper and M. Kennedy to tour the province establishing societies. Between 15 November and 13 December of 1910 these two women visited fifteen towns, holding meetings under the auspices of the local agricultural society, in which they were able to organize fourteen new groups. There were, in fact, two local women’s organizations already in existence prior to this initiative. At Valley River, near Dauphin, a “Ladies Mutual Benefit Society” had been formed in 1910. Women in Morris, meanwhile, organized a “Women’s Institute” in August of 1910, and were subsequently issued the first home economics society charter by MAC. Delegates from these two groups joined representatives from the newly formed societies at the first provincial Household Science Association convention early in the following year. [24]

Although Black was submitting a report entitled “Department of Agricultural Societies and College Extension Work” to the minister during MAC’s earliest years, it was not until 1911 that an extension branch was actually formed with the appointment of E. Ward Jones as Black’s assistant. Jones assumed control of extension as of that date. One of his first responsibilities was to organize the “Better Farming Trains” that toured the province during the summers of 1911 to 1914. A special dairy train ran in June of 1910, based upon a similar programme in North Dakota. One year later the concept was generalized to include all aspects of college instruction. Jointly sponsored by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Canadian Northern Railway and MAC, these trains ran for about one month each summer, making as many stops as possible. In 1912, for example, two trains (one CN, one CP) were equipped with refrigerator, livestock, baggage, field crops, dairy, home economics, sleeping and dairy cars. They travelled the province on the respective company lines, visiting one hundred and forty six stations and reaching approximately 35000 people through lectures and demonstrations. [25]

In 1913 Jones was joined by Hattie Gowsell, appointed as a Home Economics extension worker. A year later rural extension entered a new phase with the beginning of Dominion funding. S. T. Newton was appointed Superintendent of Extension Services in 1915, continuing in that role until 1921. During his tenure the extension service became a separate branch of the Department of Agriculture (1917-1923). By the time the Dominion grant was withdrawn in 1923, the then Director (N.C. MacKay) had a staff of over thirty full and part-time lecturers and demonstrators. With no new funds forthcoming, the staff was cut to six and the office was moved back to MAC. [26]

The most significant initiative undertaken in this period was the introduction of district representatives and home demonstration agents. The district representative programme was begun in 1915. Seven recent MAC agriculture graduates, with practical farming experience, were assigned to various points in the province. As local extension workers, these men were expected to judge at fairs, conduct short courses and extension schools, organize Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, and generally serve as agricultural resource people. They were often instrumental in organizing farmers into local agricultural improvement associations. For example, T. A. Johnson, district representative at Deloraine from 1919 to 1923, helped organize the Southwest Manitoba Co-operative Poultry Association, the Manitoba Sweet Clover Growers’ Association (thereby introducing sweet clover to southwestern Manitoba), a regional Farm Bureau bringing local businessmen and farmers together, and agricultural Chautauquas. He, and other district representatives, were also closely involved in the formation of Rural Credit Societies, which the Norris government was promoting. [27]

Home demonstration agents were not introduced until some time later. Esther Thompson, a MAC student, was hired for the summer of 1917 and 1918 to work in the Whitemouth district east of Winnipeg. Under the direction of Robert Murchie, she did “community work” in the schools and homes of the district, teaching millinery, personal hygiene, cooking and manual training. This proved to be a short term experiment for the extension branch, however. Although there were monies available, and there was a desire to establish home demonstration agents, the department found it difficult to recruit qualified personnel. S. T. Newton wrote in his 1921 report that “there is a great scarcity of young women having the required training [for home demonstration agents], which is five years in the home economics department at an agricultural college, as well as three or four years of acceptable prior experience.” Consequently agents were just becoming established when funding was curtailed. The first permanent appointment, in fact, was not made until March 1923 when T. Thordason, a MAC graduate, was assigned to the Roland/Miami area. Both the home demonstration agent and district representative programmes were abandoned in 1924 when Dominion funds were no longer forthcoming. [28]


The agricultural and home economics intellectuals who staffed the agricultural college as lecturers and the extension service as extension workers were the central participants in this history. The ostensible purpose of their work was to transmit agricultural and domestic knowledge to rural people and contribute to a better rural life. Their role and influence were not that simple, however; or, rather, the process of conveying knowledge was not that simple. Nor was it one-sided.

Agrarian intellectual practice was transformed in Manitoba between the 1890s and the 1920s as amateur endeavour gave way to professionalism. The characteristic public method of knowledge transmission for men in the nineties was the institute meeting and the institute lecture. Although the Central Institute provided local institutes with specialized experts to the extent they were available, more often than not institute members themselves presented papers on specific topics. If someone did speak from outside the local institute, he might simply be a “successful farmer” from another area of the province. Hence the distinction between expert and farmer was not clearly or closely drawn in the institute approach. [29] Female knowledge, meanwhile, was not publicly organized through state structures (as male knowledge was) until the teens. The public discourse which did exist in the earlier period, beyond informal socializing at the farm and district level, took place in the women’s section of farm and rural newspapers, notably The Farmers’ Advocate. Through this medium, farm women carried on a fairly egalitarian discussion, via correspondence, which was merely facilitated by the women’s editor. As in the case with men in the institutes, then, there was no sense of a socially distinct expert. The “experts” in this world were simply the older, more experienced women.

But by the late nineties there was pressure mounting from within the institutes, the agricultural press, and other sources for a more rigorous approach to agricultural and domestic education. As that approach took form in MAC and the extension service, agrarian intellectuals emerged as a new and distinct social group in Manitoba.” [30] MAC served both as a site where intellectuals were employed and a place where they were trained. The agriculture and home economics degree programmes, and the limited graduate instruction that existed by the twenties, provided that training, and served to distinguish the “professional agriculturalist” and “professional home economist” from the “professional farmer” and “professional homemaker.” Whereas the diploma graduate returned to the farm as a farmer or homemaker, the degree graduate was normally destined for agro-industry, government, education, or journalism as an agriculturalist or home economist. This educational division opened up a social distinction between the specialist (intellectual) and the generalist (practitioner). The extension service was based on this distinction. In contrast to the institute approach, for example, the extension approach provided expert literature, expert speakers, and local competitions and programmes under expert direction. Any local initiative was controlled through short courses or teacher training programmes in which local intellectuals were trained. And eventually, with the district representative and home demonstration programme, it was possible to place properly trained intellectuals in communities to give on-the-spot “shop floor” guidance. [31] This social distinction was accompanied by a distinct identity. Through participation in the MAC Research Association or the Manitoba Home Economics Association, and later in truly professional organizations such as the American Home Economics Association, the Canadian Society of Technical Agriculturalists, or the American Farm Management Association, Manitoba agrarian intellectuals asserted a sense of themselves as professionals with a respectable standing in a wider scientific and professional community. [32]

Manitoba Agricultural College, Fort Garry, circa 1920.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

There was a subtle yet persistent change during the period in the area of who an expert was, what it meant to be an expert, and how one became an expert. In the farmers’ institutes and agricultural societies which characterized the world of agricultural knowledge before 1905, the farmer was the expert. To have expertise was to be a successful farmer, and the successful farmer communicated his knowledge to other farmers by presenting papers at institute meetings, participating in agricultural society fairs, or competing in such things as plowing matches. In turn, one became an expert by attending such events and learning from other farmers. [33] Moreover, the domain of legitimate knowledge was reasonably broad and fluid. Although partisan political debate was forbidden in the institutes, issues in political economy which were of special concern to farmers, such as the tariff, were discussed. [34] For farm women prior to 1905, the category of expert was virtually non-existent. In “Minnie May’s” department in The Farmer’s Advocate, for example, all women were invited to share their experiences, solicit information, and offer advice. While Minnie May did convey opinion, it was directed towards older girls and younger women as if emanating from an older, more seasoned aunt. Addressing her constituency as “My dear nieces,” she would clarify received wisdom (the contours of separate spheres) or defend the “New Womanhood” against traditional patriarchal assault. Much of her allotted space, however, was given over to general discussion by correspondents. Hence expertise resided with those who had experiences to share, and one gained expertise through sharing experiences. [35]

By the 1920s this had changed. The image of the practitioner-as-expert had been transformed through its subordination to the image of the intellectual-as-expert. The real experts were now the professional agriculturalists and home economists who guided and trained others in the acquisition of expertise. For the intellectuals, expertise meant being scientifically trained in a specialty and conducting work in a neutral and apolitical environment. Pure knowledge was pursued through extensive training and detailed research projects, the results of which were then dispensed to farmers and homemakers. [36] This was an expertise which the latter two groups could not acquire practically. It was only available through the services of an intellectual.

Intellectuals were legitimized in their social role through an ideology in which the composite intellectual, symbolizing a combination of specialties, became the model for the idealized farmer and homemaker. [37] The composite agricultural intellectual, driven by an ethic of service, had the requisite knowledge of scientific agriculture and its practical application, an entrepreneur’s understanding of the market and the pursuit of profit, and a sophisticated sense of the rural problem and its resolution. The composite home economics intellectual, meanwhile, was fully conversant with efficient housekeeping, the place of the consuming household in the economy, and the duties of social and community homemaking. The ultimate personifications of these abstractions were the district representatives and home demonstration agents. Actually in communities working with farmers and homemakers on an ongoing basis, they transmitted information as equals, and were eventually accepted on these terms. [38] “This man on the spot,” wrote the Ontario Deputy Minister of Agriculture in 1911 (referring to the district representative),

brings into his county all those resources of the government departmental organization about which the farmer had some hazy knowledge but whose usefulness he had questioned, and “professors” and “experts” become real men like themselves whose object is not to pose as men of exclusive distinction and drawers of salaries, but men able and willing to give help. [39]

District representatives, home demonstration agents, and their professional agriculturalist colleagues symbolized what the farmer and homemaker should and could become, and won their confidence by working closely with them. The difference, of course, was that intellectuals were not in the same social position as farm women and men; they were not market actors nor active agents in producing households, but state employees.

By the mid-twenties, then, an educational state structure existed in Manitoba agriculture. A professional academy had been constructed, a coherent and systematic extension service was in place, and a new social group had been created. The foundation thus laid was the basis upon which dominant agrarian ideologies and identities were crystallized and refined during both the formative period discussed here and throughout the twentieth century.


1. S. Houston and A. Prentice, Schooling and Scholars in Nineteenth Century Ontario (Toronto, 1988); A. Prentice, The School Promoters: Education and Social Class in Mid-Nineteenth Century Upper Canada (Toronto, 1977); M. B. Katz, M. Doucet and M. Stern, The Social Organization of Early Industrial Capitalism (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), chapter 9; B. Curtis, Building the Educational State, Canada West, 1836-1871 (London, Ontario, 1988); M. Danylewycz, B. Light, and A. Prentice, “The Evolution of the Sexual Division of Labour in Teaching: A Nineteenth Century Ontario and Quebec Case Study,” Histoire Sociale/Social History 16(30) (May, 1983); R. Gidney and D. A. Lawr, “Community vs. Bureaucracy?: The Origins of Bureaucratic Procedure in the Upper Canadian School System,” Journal of Social History 13(3) (1980).

2. B. Bledstein, The Culture of Professionalism: The Middle Class and the Development of Higher Education in America (New York, 1976), p. 288; M. Danylewycz and A. Prentice, “Teachers’ Work: Changing Patterns and Perceptions in the Emerging School Systems of Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Central Canada,” Labour/Le Travail 17 (Spring, 1986); D. Owram, The Government Generation: Canadian Intellectuals and the State, 1900-1945 (Toronto, 1986) chapters 3 and 5; J. Pitsula, “The Emergence of Social Work in Toronto,” Journal of Canadian Studies 14(1) (Spring, 1979); V. Strong-Boag, “Intruders in the Nursery: Childcare Professionals Reshape the Years One to Five,” in J. Parr, ed., Childhood and Family in Canadian History (Toronto, 1982); L. Veysey, The Emergence of the American University (Chicago, 1965); P. Axelrod, Scholars and Dollars: Politics, Economics, and the Universities of Ontario, 1945-1980 (Toronto, 1982), chapter 1; S. E. D. Shortt, The Search for an Ideal: Six Canadian intellectuals and their convictions in an age of transition, 1890-1930 (Toronto, 1976), chapter 8; A. B. McKillop, “The Research Ideal and the University of Toronto,” in McKillop, Contours of Canadian Thought (Toronto, 1987).

3. E. D. Eddy, Colleges for Our Land and Time: The Land Grant Idea in American Education (New York, 1957); A. C. True, A History of Agricultural Education in the United States, 1785-1925 (Washington, 1929); W. C. Hunter, Beacon Across the Prairie: North Dakota’s Land Grant College (Fargo, 1961); Alan I. Marcus, Agricultural Science and the Quest for Legitimacy: Farmers, Agricultural Colleges, and Experimental Stations, 1870-1890 (Ames, 1985); Lawr, “The Development of Agricultural Education,” chapter III; J. F. Snell, Macdonald College of McGill University: A History from 1904 to 1955 (Montreal, 1963); A. S. Morton, Saskatchewan: The Making of a University (Toronto, 1959), chapter IX; M. Hayden, Seeking a Balance: The University of Saskatchewan, 1907-1982 (Vancouver, 1983); W. H. Johns, A History of the University of Alberta, 1908-1969 (Edmonton, 1981); D. Jones, “Agriculture, the Land, and Education: British Columbia, 19141929,” PhD dissertation, University of British Columbia, 1978, pp. 45-46; M. Rossiter, “The Organization of the Agricultural Sciences,” in A. Oleson and J. Voss, eds., The Organization of Knowledge in Modern America, 1860-1920 (Baltimore, 1979). Six new Canadian colleges, including the privately funded Macdonald College at McGill University, were formed between 1905 and 1915.

4. R. Scott, Reluctant Farmer: The Rise of Agricultural Extension to 1914 (Urbana, 1970), especially chapter VI; D. A. Laver, “The Development of Agricultural Education, 1870-1910,” PhD dissertation, University of Toronto, 1972, pp. 32-45, 50-60.

5. “Report of the Agricultural College Commission,” Manitoba Sessional Papers (MSP) Number 17 (1903).

6. W. L. Morton, One University: A History of the University of Manitoba, 1877-1952 (Toronto, 1957), pp. 57-60, 85-88, 117-118, 132-137; J. H. Ellis, The Ministry of Agriculture in Manitoba (Winnipeg, 1970), pp. 181-186; Statues of Manitoba (SM), 3 Ed. 6, ch. 1, 1904; SM, 2 Geo. V, ch. 1, 1912; SM, 6 Geo. V, ch. 1, 1916; SM, 14 Geo. V, ch. 71, 1924.

7. MAC Gazette 6(5) (March, 1913) and 7(1) (october, 1913). See the letter from Rebecca Dayton, President, Home Economics Societies, to Valentine Winkler in which Black is described as patronising and overbearing towards women in his role as Director of Home Economics Societies. Provincial Archives of Manitoba (PAM), Valentine Winkler Papers Box 1, 16 September 1915.

8. A. J. Madill, History of Agricultural Education in Ontario (Toronto, 1937), pp. 172-173; J. Kendle, John Bracken: A Political Biography (Toronto, 1979), chapter 2; Ellis, The Ministry of Agriculture, pp. 188, 633; University of Manitoba (UM) Archives, MAC Papers “Staff Minutes,” 24 November, 1911; MAC Papers “Board of Directors,” 29 September 1915, 1 June 1920; for the North Dakota experience see S. Murray, “James Power: The Second President of North Dakota Agricultural College,” North Dakota Quarterly 42 (Autumn, 1974).

9. S. Strasser, Never Done: A History of American Housework (New York, 1982), pp. 202-204; E. S. Wrigley, “It Might Have Been Euthenics: The Lake Placid Conferences and the Home Economics Movement,” American Quarterly 26 (March, 1974); Wm. D. Jenkins, “Housewifery and Motherhood: The Question of Role Change in the Progressive Era,” in M. Kelley, ed., Woman’s Being, Woman’s Place: Female Identity and Vocation in American History (Boston, 1979), pp. 146-148; E. C. Rowles, Home Economics in Canada: The Early History of Six College Programmes (Saskatoon, 1966), chapters I and II.

10. UM Archives, MAC Papers, MAC Calendars, 1911-1912; 1914-1915; 1915-1916; 1920-1921; for an overview of home economics education in Manitoba see J. G. Wilson, A History of Home Economics Education in Manitoba, 1826-1966 (Winnipeg, 1969); see also E. C. Rowles, Home Economics in Canada for the experience at other Canadian colleges.

11. UM Archives, MAC Papers, MAC Calendar, 1911-1912, “Outline of Courses: Household Science”; MAC Calendar, 1915-1916, pp. 86-96; “MAC Report: Report of Household Science Department, Report of Household Art Department,” MSP Number 11 (1917).

12. UM Archives, MAC Papers, MAC Calendar, 1919-1920, pp. 47-56; 1925-1926, pp. 60-65.

13. Staff announcements in Managra 1910, 1912, 1915, 1918, 1922 (Managra was the MAC student journal); Ellis, The Ministry of Agriculture, p. 634; Provincial Archives of Manitoba (PAM) Manitoba Women’s Institute (MWI) Papers, Box 13, “Early Institute History” File, Letter from A. B. Juniper to Esther Thompson, 5 February 1925; UM Archives, MAC Papers, “Board of Directors,” 13 January 1920; UM Archives, Faculty of Agriculture Inventory, Box 4, “MAC Report to Education Commission, Teaching Staff” and “Home Economics Report” in “MAC Annual Report,” 1926-1927; PAM, Manitoba Home Economics Association Papers, Box 1, “Minute Books,” 11 March 1911, 13 May 1911, April 1912, 18 May 1912, 9 October 1915; Wilson, A History of Home Economics, p. 178.

14. G. F. Warren, Farm Management (Cornell, 1911).

15. T. N. Carver, Principles of Rural Economics (Boston, 1911); H. C. Taylor, An Introduction to the Study of Agricultural Economics (Madison, 1905).

16. H. C. Taylor and A. D. Taylor, The Story of Agricultural Economics in the United States, 1840-1932 (Ames, 1952); G. F. Warren, “The Origin and Development of Farm Economics in the United States,” Journal of Farm Economics XIV (January, 1932); H. C. McDean, “professionalism in the Rural Social Sciences, 1896-1919,” Agricultural History 58(3) (1984); C. L. Holmes, “Farm Management,” Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences 1930-1935, VI, pp. 111-114; E. G. Nourse, “Agricultural Economics,” Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences 1930-1935, I, pp. 534-536. Agricultural economics was part of a continental history during this period. At the University of Manitoba political economy was taught as early as 1882 and, in 1909, A. B. Clark was appointed the first university professor of political economy. When the Canadian Political Science Association was formed in 1913 political economy, encompassing all of social science and characterised by an historical approach, became institutionally established as an area of enquiry. It was not until the 1930s and 1940s, however, with the influence of Keynesianism and neo-classicism, that Canadian economics emerged as a distinct discipline. C. D. W. Goodwin, Canadian Economic Thought: The Political Economy of a Developing Nation, 1814-1914 (Durham, N.C., 1961); D. Owram, The Government Generation: Canadian Intellectuals and the State, 1900-1945 (Toronto, 1986).

17. UM Archives, MAC Papers, MAC Calendars, 1907-1925.

18. UM Archives, MAC Papers, Examination Papers, 1908-1910; “MAC Annual Report, 1916,” MSP Number 11 (1917), p. 634; Comprehensive Dissertation Index 33, 1861-1972 (Ann Arbor, 1973), p. 336; MAC Papers, “Board of Directors, 2 April 1918”; UM Archives, Faculty of Agriculture Inventory, Box, H. C. Grant, “A Detailed Study of the Economic Factors Affecting the Productivity of Crops and Livestock in Thirty Manitoba Farms” (Master’s thesis).

19. The Farmers’ Advocate (TFA) 20 July 1893, p. 263; 5 August 1984, p. 301; 5 August 1895, p. 301; 20 November 1896, P. 450; 5 August 1896, p. 300; 5 April 1897, p. 148; MSP Number 26 (1895).

20. TFA 20 October 1894, p. 410; 5 March 1895, p. 89; 5 April 1895, p. 139; 5 December 1895, p. 465; MSP Number 20 (1897); MSP Number 11(1900).

21. TFA 5 January 1894, p. 3; 5 November 1897, p. 478; 5 January 1900, p. 14; MSP Number 11 (1900).

22. TFA 20 November 1900, p. 638; 5 February 1902, p. 79; 1 March 1905, p. 298; MSP Number 10 (1902).

23. “The Renaissance of Manitoba Farmers’ Institutes is Approaching,” TFA 1 March 1905, p. 298; UM Archives, MAC Papers, “Department of Agricultural Societies and College Extension Work,” MAC Calendar, 1908-1909; “Department of College Extension Work,” MAC Calendar, 1909-1910; Ellis, The Ministry of Agriculture, pp. 200-201.

24. PAM, MWI Papers, Box 13, “Early Institute History File”; MWI Papers, Box 14, “Particulars Re. Formation of Women’s Institutes in Manitoba: Meeting Undertaken by Household Science, MAC 1910”; MSP Number 2 (1911), pp. 167-168; “Household Science Convention,” MAC Gazette 1(7) (March, 1911), p. 67; Manitoba Agricultural Representatives Association, History of Manitoba Agricultural Extension Staff, 1913-70 (Winnipeg, 1974), p. 22.

25. MSP Number 23 (1911), p. 169; UM Archives, MAC Papers, “Staff Minutes, 1 December 1911, 4 May 1912”; MSP Number 8 (1912), pp. 170-171; MAC Papers, “Faculty Minutes, 9 April 1914”; MAC Papers, “College Extension,” MAC Calendar, 1913-1914.

26. Ellis, The Ministry of Agriculture, pp. 225-226.

27. Manitoba Agricultural Representatives Association, History of Manitoba Agricultural Extension Staff, pp. 10-11, 16-19; “The Appointment of Field Representatives,” MAC Gazette 9(1) (November, 1915), pp. 8-11; MSP Number 11 (1917), pp. 719-720; Manitoba Department of Agriculture, Annual Reports 1921-22, 1922-23, 1923-24; Ellis, The Ministry of Agriculture, Pp. 224-225.

28. UM Archives, MAC Papers, “Board of Directors,” 14 December 1916, 5 April 1917, 26 November 1917, 2 April 1918; Esther Thompson, “Community Work,” Managra 10(2) (December, 1917), p. 18; Manitoba Department of Agriculture, Annual Report (1921); “Annual Report of Manitoba Women’s Institutes, 1923,” Manitoba Agricultural Extension News 3(7) (July-August, 1923), p. 6; Wilson, Home Economics Education, pp. 175-176.

29. See, for example, J. Elder, “The Institute Campaign,” TFA 1 January 1893, p. 9.

30. See Lawr, “The Development of Agricultural Education,” p. 118 on the emergence of professional agriculturalists in Ontario during the 1890s.

31. See “District Representatives” and “Agricultural Agents in Manitoba” in the Guide 21 March 1923, pp. 378, 382-383.

32. On the MAC Research Association, see UM Archives, MAC Papers, “Staff Minutes,” 11 March 1907 and 18 March 1907. On the Canadian Society of Technical Agriculturalists, see Managra 14(1) (November, 1920), pp. 29-30.

33. TFA 20 January 1893, p. 24; TFA 20 June 1893, p. 223; J. On, “Farming as a Specialist,” TFA 5 April 1893, p. 123.

34. See, for example, “Farmers’ Institutes,” TFA 5 December 1895, p. 465.

35. See, for example, “Girls and Farm Life,” TFA 5 July 1893, p. 253; “My Dear Nieces,” TFA 20 May 1894, p. 208; “The New Woman,” TFA 20 May 1896, p. 208.

36. See, for example, the introductory comments to the degree programme in Field Husbandry in UM Archives, MAC Papers, MAC Calendar, 1914-15, p. 185. Also see S. T. Newton’s (Director of Extension) 11 June 1915 letter to Valentine Winkler in which he defends himself against charges that he is a Conservative appointee (PAM, Valentine Winkler Papers, Box 1, pp. 261-263): “Although I have been in the employ of both parties during the past ten years I have never asked either party for a job and the work which I was asked to do was non-political in every case I have no hesitation in assuring you that anything which I can do through the Extension Service to promote the work of the Department of Agriculture will be done, and ..., that seems to be the attitude of all the people at the College.”

37. The construction of this ideology is detailed in chapters four and five of my “Dominant and Popular Ideologies in the Making of Rural Manitobans, 1890-1925,” PhD dissertation, University of Manitoba, 1988.

38. See, for example, “Annual Report of Home Economics Societies, 1914,” MSP Number 13 (1915), p. 641; “Manitoba Home Economics,” Guide 21 February 1917, p. 329; “What the Agricultural Representatives are Doing,” Manitoba Agricultural Extension News 1(2) (December, 1920).

39. C. C. James, “Agricultural Work in Ontario,” in Commission of Conservation (Ottawa, 1911), p. 8.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Manitoba Agricultural College (Tuxedo Avenue, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Manitoba Agricultural College / University of Manitoba, Fort Garry Campus (Winnipeg)

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