Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Pamela Riney-Kehrberg


Responding to the problems of the Gilded Age, the early twentieth century was a time of disorder and intense reform. It was during this time that an association known as 4-H made an appearance in American society. Although today 4-H is a large organization with chapters across the nation and beyond, the origin of this club is still a mystery. Even as America's rural population slowly moved toward urban areas, this club spread rapidly across the South and the Midwest. This thesis will investigate why 4-H was born and how it was able to expand so quickly in Iowa in the years from 1900 to 1920. It will address the general anxiety that grew in rural areas (caused by depopulation) and the steps people took to stop the population shift. The thesis will then discuss the birth of 4-H in Iowa's schools, the gradual merging of Iowa State's Extension Service and 4-H school clubs, and final break between Iowa's educational system and the organization. Finally, the thesis will end with a discussion of 4-H's World War One years and 4-H adaptation of rural gender norms. Ultimately, this thesis will argue that 4-H was part of the Progressive Movement and that the club became well accepted by the rural community because it filled a need left by the depopulation of the countryside.


Copyright Owner

Margaret Baker Weber



File Format


File Size

94 pages