History 248 Reading Guide

Rural Families and Communities in an Industrializing World

  • Nancy Grey Osterud, Bonds of Community (1991).


  • What does Osterud mean when she describes community in the Nanticoke Valley as a collection of “open-country neighborhoods and villages”?  What arguments does she make about the nature of rural communities in upstate New York?
  • What are the main features of the farm family economy that she describes in the Nanticoke Valley?  How do these compare and contrast to the rural economies in colonial America that we have studied?  How did rural women’s attempts to create mutuality in their marriages, in the work of family farming, and within their kinship networks shape family and community in upstate New York?
  • How does she organize her study?  Toward what arguments does her account progress?
  • What insights on gender relations, work, and community does Osterud offer in her study of rural women’s experiences in their families and communities?  How does her argument compare and contrast with the traditional interpretation about the development of “separate spheres” and the implications of that development for women?
  • To what extent does Osterud describe a “community of women” (if not exactly a “woman’s culture”)?  What does that mean in this context?