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Electric Appliances on the Farm
4 of 5

By Odette Keun

To put electricity and electricity-using appliances in every American home and farm is an objective the necessity of which no sane person will dispute. Take the farms. There are about six million five hundred thousand of them in the United States. Thirty million people, out of a population of one hundred and twenty-seven million dwell in them. Now the less I say about the American farms in general, the more wholesome it will be for my temper, for I've been so grossly misinformed with regard to the average living condition of the agricultural classes in this country, by the Americans I met in Europe, that I haven't got over my bitter disappointment yet. * * * This may be unpalatable to the Americans who still believe that everything is for the best in the best of all countries: their own; but I can't help that it is true. There are districts in West Virginia, East Tennessee, Kentucky, where the mode of material existence is not different from that of the first settlers, over a century and a half ago. (Useless to fall back upon the facile plea: "That's the South!" The South is American, isn't it?) Even when I visited the better-off farms, I discovered that a very large percentage of them had kitchens with ovens burning wood --the poor cooking in pots and pans over a little fire on the hearth, as in the Middle Ages; that they were lighted by dim, smoking, smelly, oil lamps, that the washing of clothes was done by hand in antiquated tubs; that the water was brought into the house by the women and children, from wells invariably situated at inconvenient and tiring distances, for it appears to be one of the milder manias of the American farmer, to sink his well as far away as possible instead of near the front door, under trees, as the European peasant does. Ordinarily there is no icebox, so many products that might be grown to vary the horribly monotonous diet are out of the question: they could not be stored. (Nothing could be stored in the warm regions if it weren't for the springhouses. And not everybody has them!) Of the fifty million horsepower required by farms, 61 per cent is still furnished by animals and only 6 per cent by electric stations. About ninety per cent of the citizens on farms, say the statistics, do not have the lighting and the simple comforts that have become a commonplace in most middle-class dwellings in urban communities. It's nothing to brag about, you know.

[taken from A Foreigner Looks at TVA, by Odette Keun, (Longmans, Green and Company: New York, 1937) p. 29-31.]