Sarah Orne Jewett
Agriculture, Horticulture, Gender, Reading, Periodicals
When her father falls ill with pneumonia, twenty year old Polly Finch takes over the running of the family farm in New England. Polly, who has been educated for a career in teaching at the Normal School, tells an old neighbour that she has been reading 'old numbers of the Agriculturist. Father has taken it for a good many years, and I've taken to studying farming' (208), and informs the local doctor that she is determined to 'raise a good many more early vegetables, and ever so much more poultry. Some of our land is so sheltered that it is very early, you know, and it's first-rate light loam' (204). The narrator observes that 'few people have set their wits at work on a New England farm half so intelligently', and, as well as many other successful agricultural innovations, 'by infinite diligence she waged war successfully on the currant worms, with the result that she had a great crop of currants when everybody else's came to grief'. Even Polly's ailing father, whose own agricultural innovations failed because 'he was afraid to take risk', is soon 'persuaded into thinking it was worth while to do the old work in new ways'. (209) Although 'some people laughed a good deal, and thought she ought to be ashamed to work on the farm like a man [...] nobody could have said that she had become unwomanly and rough' (209–10), and Polly herself finds that there is 'something delightful in keeping so close to growing things' (210).
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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