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Medford, Oregon (January 11, 2021)— Historian Madelina Homberger Cordia will present “The Hidden Demographic: Women and Children Agricultural Workers in Oregon, 1920-1970” on Wednesday, February 3 from 12 Noon–1:00 p.m. via the Zoom video conferencing app. All are welcome to attend this free lecture; registration is required.
Little is known about the prevalence of women and children wage workers in Oregon’s agricultural history despite clear evidence of their presence. In fact, the USDA estimated in 1959 that they comprised up to 20% of the nationwide harvest workforce, and Oregon employers characterized them as both “inexperienced” and “efficient,” depending on the circumstances. Some historians have emphasized exceptional times, such as “youth platoons” and “Housewives Specials” enlisted during World War II, linking patriotic duty with an acute need for harvest help during the wartime emergency. This, however, is not the whole story.
This lecture addresses the ways in which gender, age, class, and women and children’s dependent legal status influenced labor dynamics in Oregon agriculture from 1920 to 1970. This chronology situates the story within broader historical developments, such as the Great Depression, World War II, and the end of “protective” labor laws in the 1960s, offering new insights that highlight a largely hidden history of these groups’ contributions as agricultural wage workers. Using archival, legal, governmental, photographic, and other records, we are able to reconstruct patterns in hiring practices, wage scales, and variances by crop and region that further nuance this intriguing story.
Madelina Homberger Cordia received her M.A. in History in 2017 and spent two years teaching at SOU before joining the History Department at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, to pursue her Ph.D. Her work during that time culminated in the publication of “They Came for the Harvest: The Bracero Program in Jackson County, Oregon, 1951-1955,” in the summer 2019 issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly. Now in her second year of coursework, her research interests include Oregon, agriculture, labor, and social history, as well as the ways that gender, race, ethnicity, and class inform and challenge identity construction.
Program registration can be found at https://jcls.libcal.com/
The monthly Windows in Time lunchtime lectures feature well-known writers and historians, and bring alive the people, values, and events that shaped our Southern Oregon heritage. Lectures are jointly sponsored by the Southern Oregon Historical Society (SOHS) and Jackson County Library Services. For more information, please contact the Southern Oregon Historical Society at (541) 773-6536 or sohs.org or Jackson County Library Services at 541-774-8679 or jcls.org.
Image: Picking hops in Josephine County, ca 1900-1910.
About Jackson County Library Services:
The JCLS mission is to connect everyone to information, ideas, and each other. The 15 branch libraries currently offer enhanced front door service for pickup of holds. While in-person browsing is unavailable, patrons can browse the online catalog and curated staff booklists, subscribe to the Library Connect blog, and utilize readers advisory resources via an online form. JCLS also offers virtual programs, Take & Make kits, At Home Services for patrons who cannot come to the library, Outreach to Child Care, free internet access, 24-hour online resources, and a staff of experts. Learn more at jcls.org.
Media Contact: Ryan Bradley, JCLS Marketing Coordinator | email@example.com