Rowan marks century of home demonstration clubs

  • Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013 12:02 a.m.

North Carolina owes much to its success today to women who participated in extension “Home Demonstration Clubs,” working to improve the well-being of families and their communities.

In 2013, North Carolina’s Extension and Community Associations celebrate 100 years of home demonstration and community development across the state.

In Rowan County, the Extension and Community Association are active in their communities today. Through the educational guidance and research-based information provided by N.C. Cooperative Extension’s family and consumer sciences agents and specialists based at N.C. State and N.C. A&T State Universities, ECA is a grassroots institution that has actively addressed the needs of families in their communities for 100 years.

In 1911, Jane S. McKimmon, North Carolina’s first woman home demonstration extension agent, convinced 14 county superintendents of education to employ home demonstration agents to support the girls’ tomato club program. Tomato clubs were the girls’ counterpart to the boys’ corn clubs, teaching rural youth valuable skills for life on the farm.

By 1913, the mothers, who had learned to can so well and were canning leaders in their own communities, began to ask for clubs of their own where they might learn other skills for the home. Thus home demonstration clubs for women were organized in 14 counties.

Today in Rowan County ECA is still very active in the community throughout the year participating in various projects, programs and activities such as: collecting tabs from cans for the Ronald McDonald House, Food and clothes to Rowan Helping Ministry, Family Crisis, Operation Christmas Child, Christmas Happiness, Salvation Army, and Rowan County ARC. Several clubs also sent care packages to our service men and women stationed abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq in appreciation for their hard work and dedication to our country. While continuing to volunteer during lunchtime at the South East Middle School – which provides the teacher with a duty-free lunch, tutoring for Rowan County Literacy Council, visiting the Lutheran Home, judging at the Iredell County Fair, and being department heads at the Rowan County Fair.

Throughout the last century home demonstration clubs, later renamed Extension Homemakers and today known as ECA clubs, have been involved in helping North Carolina become the progressive state it is today. From the earliest days, women organized efforts beyond their own homes to support their communities.

During the 1918 flu pandemic, home demonstration clubs provided food for those who were ill and even helped run emergency hospitals. Home demonstration clubs launched efforts to feed school children, a precursor to today’s school lunch programs.

In times of economic hardship like the Great Depression, curb markets started by home demonstration provided much-needed family income.

The markets provided a place where women could earn money selling eggs, butter, garden produce and canned goods.

Home demonstration clubs supported war efforts during World War II, conducting scrap drives and even selling war bonds to outfit the Larkspar as a military hospital ship. Clubs encouraged literacy in their communities, first by borrowing books from the state library in Raleigh and later developing book lending programs that led to the establishment of county public libraries.

Today, ECA clubs are still involved in their communities, encouraging healthy lifestyles, supporting community literacy and providing for our state’s military personnel. Clubs also educate future generation by providing scholarships and loans for higher education.

The Rowan County Extension and Community will celebrate their annual Achievement Day at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Rowan County Agricultural Center.

The guest speaker for the occasion will be Linley Evans, Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher at East Rowan High School. Ms. Evans has been the recipient of the ECA Scholarship and is also an alumnus of East Rowan High. The theme for the day will be “Looking to the Future.”

For more information on Rowan County Extension and Community Association, contact Toi N. Degree at 704-216-8970 to by e-mail at or visit the N.C. Cooperative Extension Rowan County website at

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