Fonds - Concerned Farm Women fonds

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Concerned Farm Women fonds

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  • 1981 - 1988 (Creation)
    Concerned Farm Women
    Bruce, County of

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Physical description

68 cm of textual records
2 videocassettes (ca. 2 hours)

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(1981-[early 1990s?])

Administrative history

In September 1981, Beth Slumskie and Doris Sweiger called a meeting of friends concerned by the financial situation on some farms, particularly livestock farms, which had reached a point of crisis. Fifty women met one evening to discuss their alarm over the issues affecting the financial viability of their family farms. As a result, a public meeting was planned and, two weeks later, 250 farm women gathered to share their concerns and fears. At that meeting, Concerned Farm Women was formed. Many activities soon followed: a protest was organized to coincide with the Port Elgin visit of the federal Minister of Agriculture, Eugene Whelan in the fall, meetings were held with the provincial Minister of Agriculture Lorne Henderson, public meetings were organized, and numerous radio, newspaper and television appearances drew public attention to the group’s concerns.

Concerned Farm Women prepared an extensive brief of the psychological effects of financial stress on farm families as a submission to the task force mobilized by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture in fall 1981. The brief was used in lobbying efforts with federal and provincial governments, who requested documentation of the group’s statements; hence, a survey was initiated.

“Initially conceived as a quick poll of area farm women, the survey took on a life of its own as offers of assistance poured in from community service, resource people and agricultural groups. Weeks of kitchen-table meetings with farm women resulted in a 31-page questionnaire. Three university students were hired to administer the survey and collect and code the data. With the help of township clerks, they prepared a list of farm women in Bruce and Grey Counties and randomly selected 600 women to participate. … The coded data was prepared for computer analysis during fall 1982, and in December the second phase of the project was begun, with the hiring of five farm women to analyse and disseminate the survey findings and prepare a manuscript for a book.” (Glover)

The book, “The Farmer Takes a Wife : a study by Concerned Farm Women” by Gisele Ireland, published in 1983, was the result of that process. “It presents the results of the survey, focusing on the psychological and financial stress experienced by farm families. It is also about the farm women in Grey and Bruce Counties; how the financial stress had affected them, their roles on and off the farm, and their views of themselves and their future.“ (Glover)

In 1985, the organization also published the book “To Have and to Hold” by Catherine Meanwell, a lawyer in Owen Sound, and Susan Glover of Keppel Township, a former magazine editor and a dairy farmer, concerning the growing complexity of legal problems for farm couples, with a focus on family law and property ownership, as well as credit arrangements.

In subsequent years to the early 1990s, Concerned Farm Women remained active provincially in a somewhat less prominent manner. “At the county level they contributed valuable briefs on subjects of provincial and national importance: land use, severances, the rights of existing farmers to farm without the handicap of litigation from new landowners. Politicians respected the CFW’s briefs because of their accuracy and sincerity.”” (Powers, 99)

“The efforts of Concerned Farm Women, along with appeals from all farm organizations, brought some relief from the Ontario government in the form of the Ontario Farm Financial Assistance Program. … The collective thinking of the Concerned Farm Women provided a nucleus of ideas about positive alternatives.” (Powers, 99)

Custodial history

The scrapbooks assigned accession #A2004.019 appear to have been provided to James Powers by former Concerned Farm Women president Beth Slumskie. Mr. Powers donated them to the Museum in 2004, along with records related to other agricultural organizations.
The items assigned accession number A2015.030 were kept by former CFW executive member Gisele Ireland until their donation to the Museum in 2015.

Scope and content

This fonds consists of materials reflecting the concerns, research and activities of Concerned Farm Women from 1981 to 1988.
It consists of administrative records including documents reflecting the group’s aims and objectives, meeting minutes (primarily 1983), membership lists (1983-1988), pamphlets, newsletters (1982-1988), project activity reports, and correspondence. Scrapbooks and folders of newspaper clippings reflect the group’s activities as well as the financial crisis facing farmers in the 1980s. Two videocassettes also review the history and accomplishments of the organization. Correspondence, conference materials and speech scripts reflect the group’s lobbying efforts. Books, reports, articles and promotional material from other agricultural organizations concerning the financial state of agriculture in Ontario and across North America informed the group’s research and activities. Finally, two books published by the group: (1) The Farmer Takes a Wife: a study by Concerned Farm Women, resulting from a 31-page survey of approximately 600 Bruce and Grey County farm women, and (2) To Have and To Hold: a guide to property and credit law for farm families in Ontario” are included in the fonds.

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An inventory of folder names, including description of folder contents, is available at

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