Clara Brian... the long version.
The Challenge to Change

When Miss Brian became the first home adviser she had the challenge of moving an organization from the written contract to the reality of a unique educational vehicle. This would permit her to provide information and experiences, which would improve people’s lives as they moved into an industrial society.

Every organized township unit was visited during each month of the summer of 1918, and by September Miss Brian had plans for a program thrust that would involve more than just the Home Improvement Association members. As had been promised, the home advisor would work with everyone.

Even so, when the war ended in November of that year there were those who thought that the educational service was a wartime measure only. They were to learn differently. Miss Brian had brought to the county work an extraordinary dedication and a philosophy, which reflected the progressive influence of Marion Talbot of the University of Chicago .

Travel a Challenge

                The Home Improvement Association was to furnish the transportation of the advisor. So as soon as Miss Brian was hired, Mrs. Ewing wrote a letter to Mr. Bert Hawk, a member of the Rotary Club, telling of the new women’s organization and the work they were proposing to do. She stated that the association would have the services of a home advisor to help the women and families of the county, and since they would soon have 900 members in the county and 600 in Bloomington-Normal an automobile was needed for the people to be adequately served. She further pointed out that although the 1,500 members paid a one-dollar yearly membership the services of the adviser would be available to all citizens of the county.

                Mr. Hawk responded in a letter dated June 14, 1918 , that “We are all mighty glad to have this privilege to cooperate in this good work.”

                For the first month, if the meeting place could not be reached by train or traction service, one of the members would come to Bloomington to take the adviser to the meeting and another would bring her home.

                The automobile, a 1918 Ford, was delivered to the office at the Durley Building on July 5, donated by the Rotary Club. Years later, Clara wrote: “The adviser did not know how to drive a car but after an hour of instruction by the demonstrator, she was ready for the first trip in the new car.

                However, the third component, roads to travel on, still left much to be desired. And for this new form of adult education the ability to reach county residents where they lived was considered essential. The fact that McLean County is the largest land area in the state made this commitment a special challenge, and one Miss Brian commented on frequently.

                During the first ten years of the county extension program there were fewer than 125 miles of paved roads, 350 miles of gravel road and 1,542 miles of dirt road in McLean County . Further, it is significant that these dirt roads were soft and swampy during the six months of the year, and they were barely passable with a team of horses.

From the memoirs written after her retirement, it is apparent the adventures of travel started immediately:  

“Monday, July 15, was a memorable day. The meeting place was Bellflower – 35 miles away. There were no paved roads – just dirt. The county tuberculosis nurse, Mrs. Earl Cooper, went with me. The car was a Ford Coupe, 1918 model. With fear and trembling, we started on our journey to the southeast corner of the county. We hadn’t gone far until it started to rain, the top was down. It had to come up. The shower was soon over; then we came to a part of the road under construction, then a bridge that was not there. It was necessary to drive along a steep embankment and up on the other side. Impossible? How did we know until we tried? Down and up with out a mishap, with perhaps a little more confidence in driving ability. A little more driving and we were in Bellflower . Meeting over, ready to start to Bloomington , but the car would not start. A man came, by request, from the garage, gave a few whirls to the handle in front and we were on our way home. Everything seemed to be going fine. When we were a mile east of Downs , the car stopped. Well, what is the matter now? Nothing, except there was no gas in the tank, and even Fords in those days would not continue without gas. Gas stations were not open after five o’clock that summer. A quarter mile walk and I was at the home of an obliging farmer who sold me five gallons of gas and delivered it to the tank. This was our last interruption and we arrived in Bloomington tired but with a lot of good experience out of my first day with a car. My brother [Dr. F. W. Brian] acknowledged to Mrs. Cooper a few days later that he was much relieved to hear my voice over the phone saying we were safely home. “

A record of repairs on the first car are somewhat revealing. Repairing tubes, buying new casings and tubes, putting on curtains and chains, tightening fenders, straightening fender and crank, and installing a starter were among the repairs and adjustments which cost a total of $375.36 from July 1918 to November 28, 1919 . Those miles on the road must have been rigorous dusty as one jolted over the rough roads until the fenders were in danger of coming off, and the tires and tubes needed replacement and or repair. Chains were standard equipment for 1918, but it is an eloquent reminder of the adverse road conditions. Travel in the open car was only slightly more comfortable with the addition of curtains and this was before the era of heaters. Installation of a starter would seem like a major improvement too.

After some years of driving experience, and fortified by a variety of successes related to travel, Miss Brian made Pantagraph headlines about a trip to Weston, on the Northeast edge of the county. She described the event more succinctly in one paragraph.  

“ …the day of the big snow storm. Coming from Weston and leaving Chenoa going southward on 66, I was stopped and told to go back. The driver of the car said that there were twenty cars stranded because a car blocked the road and none could get through. I did not want to go back. I wanted to go to Bloomington . . There were four new chains on the trusty Dodge. I knew the road and the shoulders of that particular part of 66. I pulled off the road to the right, passed all the stranded cars, and was the first of that group to reach Bloomington .”

Many of her experiences read like the Perils of Pauline. Another time she wrote:

“I decided to leave the meeting as soon as I could get away and get home early. The ground was getting well covered with snow but I was congratulating myself that I would get home in good time.  About one mile east of Barnes station (that was the road used in those days), the left front axle of the car dropped to the ground and the wheel went spinning down the road. I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing for a few minutes – just thankful I was not hurt. I walked to the second house before I found a telephone to call the garage in Bloomington for help. No it is not a monotonous life, but one full of challenges.”

                Not only stamina and a sense of adventure were involved in travel of the time, but Miss Brian’s sense of humor was reflected in a quote about the ruts in the road:

“There were always little funny incidents to lighten the more serious side of the work. Getting stuck in the mud or sliding off the road into a snow bank was not funny at the time, but it did give one something different to think about. Then there were the “ruts.” How I longed for the ability to write and for the gift of oratory that I might give a lecture on “ruts.”

                Both the students and the teacher faced special problems for travel. Mrs. Dobson of Money Creek unit recalls the time her husband drove a team of horses hitched to a wagon from their home to the meeting place, stopping along the way to pick up the members who needed transportation that day. In this way they were able to overcome the obstacle of bad roads to attend their unit meeting. She did not, however, have a recollection of what travel had been like for the adviser on that occasion.

                A survey report at the June 1931 Home Bureau directors meeting had been taken at the previous February Unit meeting. It provides a unique insight into the commitment to the importance of the Home Bureau to those involved.

                There were 455 people in attendance at the unit meetings, and they had traveled a total of 1,694.5 miles to be at their respective meetings. This was an average of 3.7 miles, with the longest distance travels 15.5 miles. By contrast, Miss Brian had traveled 946.8 miles that month as she visited all the units.

                Weather and road conditions permitting, Miss Brian kept all her appointments with the township units. Members recall her arrival in her little Ford, and they also remember many times of trials in the process.

                Other times the home adviser traveled by rail, either the Interurban or the appropriate railroad. She would be met at the station or rail stop by an auto or buggy and taken to the meeting place. On these occasions she may have stayed overnight or been transported to the next unit meeting, and then conveyed to the nearest station to return to Bloomington . Between June 1918 and April 1919, Miss Brian reported a total of 4,654 miles traveled, 3,354 miles by auto and 1,300 miles by rail. In her March 9, 1919 report she commented:

“Work out in the country is held up on account of the road conditions. It is almost impossible for people to get to the meetings, and I can only go where the meetings can be reached by train or when they come after me. Hope these will soon be over and the work will move smoothly along.”

                The Ford roadster was replaced by a succession of Dodge Brothers vehicles. In some of the later reports, the purchase of a closed car and, later, having a model equipped with a heater were pointedly noted.

                When the Ford was replaced in 1920, the Home Bureau assumed the responsibility for the cost of the new auto, and for the subsequent cars used by the home advisers until the 1950s.

                It is natural to assume that much of the success of the extension education in the 1920’s and 1930’s was the ability to take this information to the people because of improved roads and automobiles. Meetings with people where the changes were to take place was a major strength of the program.

Developing the Program

                Two small desks and three chairs in the front reception room of the Association of Commerce and the Farm Bureau was the first office of the Home Improvement Association. Until that time, Mr. Dave Thompson, farm adviser, and Mr. Heber Hudson, secretary of the association, shared the second floor suite in the Durley Building at the Main and Jefferson streets in Bloomington .

                During those first weeks, members of the Home Improvement Association volunteered secretarial time until a half-time secretary was employed.

                Because there was no schedule to follow, it was decided that the township units would be visited as they found a place to meet and set a time commensurate with the adviser’s schedule.

                Mt. Hope Township was the first to request a meeting, and on Wednesday, June 5, Miss Brian presented her first lesson to a unit. And for all the years that followed, that unit continued to meet on the first Wednesday of each month.

                As other townships firmed their June schedules, the adviser met with them. Every organized unit was visited each of the summer months of that year.

                Wartime restrictions on the use of wheat flour were making changes in the established patterns of food preparation. The homemakers were having a difficult time making bread from other flours, so the first lessons were on using these substitutions in bread making.

                Demonstrations were, and still are a preferred method of information delivery in the homemakers units. Many members recall the bread demonstration work, which Miss Brian did.

                She would arise early and prepare the dough and start it on the first rising. Then she would pack the ingredients for two more batches of dough. The active yeast dough would be packed properly to aid in the rising process and all would go into the car.

                Some place along the route, she would stop, punch down the dough and start it on it on the second rising. Arriving at the meeting place, everything would be set out for making a second batch of dough. This was to used in the next demonstration of the day. The dough which had been set earlier in the morning was then formed into loaves or other appropriate products, and it was ready for the oven. Thus the whole process was presented to the audience in about one hour.

                Getting back in the auto, she would be off to repeat the process for the afternoon unit meeting.

                Miss Agnes Huth, office secretary for many years, recalls helping her with the demonstrations. She would arrive at the office at about 7:00 am and she and Miss Brian would assemble and prepare the components of the demonstration of the day. They would load the car and be on their way. When they arrived at the meeting place, Agnes would set up the demonstration materials. Miss Brian would present the lesson, then Agnes would pack up the baskets, and they would be off to the next meeting.

                Remembering further, Agnes said they sometimes came back to preparation of a dinner meeting for some group or committee. Lacking that commitment, Agnes might work at her secretarial duties until 10:00 or 11:00pm .

A work week was six days, and the hours varied. They were not just eight-hour days.

By the end of the first year in McLean County much work was underway. The Home Improvement Associate had indeed been moved from an enabling organization to an action-oriented association. The name had been changed to McLean County Farm Bureau, the membership had grown to 1,535 members and a five-part program was in place.

Program Options

                The five areas of study were “Conservation and Consumption,” Health and Sanitation,” “Accounting,” “Equipment and Household Management,” “Textiles.” With each of these courses of study there was a series of lessons prepared to be presented at monthly unit meetings. Each unit discussed the options and then they selected a course of study for the year. The adviser and local leaders shared the responsibility of presenting the lessons in the units. Additional pertinent topics were included in the monthly program through minor lessons which were presented by volunteer leaders. This provided a variety of educational materials to meet the local members’ needs.

                By this time, Miss Brian had developed a schedule of teaching, which placed her in the units for approximately four days a week, and two days in the office. Saturdays were devoted to what she called “subject matter,” department workshops and directors’ meetings. Of course weather, travel conditions and health modified this plan or restricted the attendance at these meetings.

                Experience and some experimentation modified the meeting schedule over the early years, by 1926 the plan of all day meeting for each unit, and the adviser meeting with each unit for half the day was the one most workable. This continued for many years, even in the 1980’s a modified version of this plan is still in use, so the homemakers may have a twelve-month program of education.

                In October of 1920 Miss Brian logged 1201 miles in automobile travel during 18½ days in the field. Only 71/2 days were spent in the office. With all this effort, a very strong and growing organization was developing.

                Despite this rigorous schedule a monthly bulletin was developed as another means of communication. In addition, the adviser met with community clubs, parent’s organizations, and Illinois State Normal University and Illinois Wesleyan University home economics student. From the beginning Miss Brian was adviser to the county.

                In some cases the women’s editor of the Daily Pantagraph would attend the meetings and report them in depth. The on-going relationship with the Daily Pantagraph became a major facet of Miss Brown’s service to the county.

                The YWCA food service benefited from her interest in management and sanitation work. Community involvement was extensive.

                Today it is called networking, but in those early years it was an expedient way of getting the most accomplished in a major effort to help people of the county. Miss Brian worked with the Day Nursery, the county health nurse, the McLean County Tuberculosis Association, the Red Cross health committee, the school principals and teachers, the county superintendent of schools, the Farm Bureau, the churches and any group that was interested in the welfare of the county’s citizens.

                Her perspective was broad based. She thought of her work as the opportunity to bring the information gained in the laboratory and classroom to the homes of the county where it was needed and would be applied. This was the progressive era, and the Home Bureau proved to be an excellent vehicle for accomplishing the goal of a more healthful, rewarding lifestyle for people.

Equipment and Household Management

Miss Brian’s first annual report spoke eloquently in a few words and two pictures of a major concern for the farmwomen with whom she worked.

“One picture was taken of a corn dump, showing how a load of corn can be put into the crib in five minutes time. This same farm had a windmill which pumped water to the stock in the barn yard, but there was no facilities for getting the water to the house except as it was carried in by the bucket full.”

                This set the tenor of a major program thrust in the next several years. A slide presentation prepared from photographs, which Miss Brian took in homes throughout the county, had special impact at unit meetings.

                Titled “Household Equipment, The Reason Why.” The pictures of kitchens and their arrangement, dining rooms, sanitary and unsanitary toilets, laundry areas, and machinery used on the farm highlighted the adviser’s comments. Pictures of children were shown and the ‘reason why.”

                The conclusion was that “Every woman has a duty to her family, her neighborhood and her community and must have her work made easier in order to give her time and strength for these outside privileges.”

                Five equipment tours were organized and taken in the fall on 1920. During four of these, 48 homes were visited in 28 McLean County townships. The fifth tour was to the Senator Dunlap home in Champaign County .

                A total of 499 people carpooled and traveled 457 miles for these educational events. The features of special interest at many of the homes included lighting, heating, water plants, electric and gas mangles for ironing, vacuum cleaners, chemical toilets, portable smoke houses, kitchen’s, room arrangements in modern homes, dumb waiters and modern poultry houses.

                Besides the several hundred women who had first hand information about the newest equipment and conveniences, there were two additional results noted in the evaluation. The Home Bureau had become better known as a result of the publicity. And a letter to the Bloomington Daily Pantagraph had directed criticism to the fact that only the most modern and expensive facilities were viewed on these tours. This promptly resulted in another tour, of the home of a tenant farm family. Here, it was concluded that the homemaker had done an excellent job with what she had available. 

                Another countywide activity sponsored by the Home Improvement Association was “Household Equipment Week.” All the merchants in the county were invited to have window displays of the newest equipment from their stock. The merchants reported an increase in sales because of this activity.

                Later, household equipment loan kits were assembled. They included such small items as a spatula, a paring knife, a bottle sprinkler for dampening laundry, etc. Units that were studying the equipment learning module could request one of the kits for volunteers to use in their own homes. Each of the items was used for one week by the study group members. When they had in home experience with all the small equipment in the kit, a report to the unit was made. They discussed usefulness, any limitations, and the value to homemaking. At any given time there were four kits in use in the county. Miss Brian stressed in this lesson that each homemaker had to know her own needs and devise her own plan of labor saving devices and methods.

                In her recommendations for household equipment, Miss Brian advocated water in every home, a power clothes washer of some kind, a mangle for pressing or a simple iron, folding some clothes directly from the line, use of a dish dryer, and a written schedule of meals.

                In April and May of 1920, Home Bureau members reported that they had purchased such items as a spatula, two bottle sprinklers, a tea wagon, an electric vacuum cleaner, a kitchen cabinet, two stream cookers, three fireless cookers, a paring knife, an aluminum cookware set for $65, and an electric plate, and equipped a laundry room and installed a bathroom. These equipment changes were attributed to the recent emphasis on equipment and its relationship to family life and health.

                In 1935 Miss Brain bought a farm in Dewitt County . The house on the property was in extremely poor condition, in fact virtually uninhabitable. Clara Brian the professional and Clara the farm owner held the same high standards. Her belief in sound management and equipment commensurate with the work to be done was unwavering.

                Mr. and Mrs. Scott Harrold were hired as tenants, with the understanding that they would have to wait for the house to be remodeled. Miss Brian assured them that they would not regret waiting to move to the house on the farm. She reminded them that the renovation was both slow and costly.

                When the young couple moved to the farm home six months later, the house was habitable and it held the promise of much more.  They found all the wiring and plumbing in place, so when REA reached their area it was a simple matter of bringing the water and electricity into the home.

                Mrs. Harrold remembers Miss Brian as a landlord who was always interested in what was new and efficient on the farm an in the farm home. She was knowledgeable about farming and willing to make the necessary changes to improve operation. Drainage tile was installed when it was apparent there was a need. As new equipment became available she encouraged them to invest in it.

                Of equal interest was the equipment for the home. A pressure canner and the tin cans for preserving food were in the farm home at an early time. When the Harrolds were expecting their first child, Miss Brian insisted that an electric sewing machine was essential. This was not to imply that all this was furnished to the tenants, for Miss Brian’s practical nature helped her to understand that it would not be in the family’s best interest to do this. By her knowledge and influence encouraged creating the best farm life possible.

                Clara’s philosophy of fairness and concern was evident in her relationship with her farm tenants. While she owned the farm she wanted it to be representative of her values and concerns. And, when she was ready to sell the farm she made it possible for the Harrolds to buy the property, for she did not want anyone else to own it. Presumably she wanted the progressive farm and home life to continue.

Health and the 20’s

                “Then came October [1918] and the never-to-be-forgotten flu epidemic,” wrote Clara Brian. The focus of the program was changed abruptly. It was a health issue but it was not an academic subject.

                Miss Brian continues: “All programs were discontinued. Home Improvement Association members, city and county, joined with women of other organizations to help care for the sick. Monday, October 14, I began work as dietitian of the Emergency Hospital set up in the Bloomington Country Club.  A fine group of women joined with me in preparing and serving food to the sick and to all the doctors, nurses, and nurses aids who so willingly gave of their time and strength to this emergency work. The Home Improvement Association units of both farm and home organizations furnished most of the food. All kinds of vegetables, milk, butter, chickens, eggs, etc. came in abundance from all parts of the county. During the two weeks, 3,600 meals were prepared and served. One hundred and fourteen patients were cared for by the doctors and nursing staff. Four of those patients died; only two of those who worked at the hospital took the disease and they had light cases. Again, the organization had proven to the communities the value of a rural people organized.”

                The crisis passed, November was a month devoted to returning to normal living and planning. The Home Improvement board profited from the experience and elected to give a major emphasis to a well-organized course of study on food and health.

                Reviewing the lessons and reports, one is struck by the importance, which was placed on nutrition, exercise and sanitation as it related to health. It is something of déjà vu, with America ’s current revival of commitment to this triad.

                As was noted earlier, the newest in foods and nutrition was a major program, area and it was integrated into the emphasis on healthful lifestyle, which permeated Miss Brian’s teaching. This was readily related to overall health with an early emphasis on sanitation in households, and on farmsteads through a countywide crusade against rodents and flies.

                In her efficient manner, Miss Brian organized a comprehensive program around a pest extermination drive. The Home Bureau members received instruction in the health dangers and how to maintain the best home standards. The school children were given an education through programs and bulletins.

                By April 1920, there was a program in the schools with a slogan of “Bat the Rat, Swat the Fly, Rouse mit the Mouse.” School children presented playlets on the subject and positive action was encouraged. Miss Brian noted that children do better when teacher and mother cooperate, and she felt that the area of health and sanitation was a community affair that should involve everyone.

                An extermination drive in each township was sponsored by the Home Bureau. The county organization offered a $5 prize for the township reporting the largest number of rodents killed. Each of the township units was encouraged to hold a drive, and to offer cash prizes for the family which killed the most rats and mice.

                Weston unit held a strawberry ice cream social to raise the money for their prizes. They reported a profit of $35 from the event, but it was not reported whether the entire amount went to the rodent drive. Other units held a variety of events to raise money.

                Twenty-three townships reported 40,372 rats and mice killed, but equally important was the educational impact of this major drive. The county residents had learned the importance of eliminating insect-carrying pests, and they continued to work on the problem.

                Another phase of the countywide health emphasis was the elimination of the breeding places of flies. In all of these efforts Miss Brian used a variety of methods to get her message across: articles in the Daily Pantagraph and 17 county newspapers, distribution of federal and state bulletins, distribution to school children of 1,000 Illinois health Department bulletins, and speaking to community groups including parent/teacher organizations and joint Farm Bureau and Home Bureau meetings. Education and involvement brought results.

                By August of 1920, lessons on healthful exercises for the homemaker had been given, and 414 women had agreed to follow the daily regimen of health specialist Fannie Brooks’ exercise chart.

                Organized recreational events, both in the units and countywide, were planned. Camping for farmwomen became a regular activity for farmwomen after the first year at Camp Lantz , which was in the western part of the county along the Mackinaw River . The camp program included swimming, boating, games and contests. Drama and campfire programs were special events. Morning flag raising and vesper services punctuated the beginning and the ending of the days. This was recreation and renewal for the members.

                If every woman had an obligation to the school, then Clara Brian must have felt that her obligation was to enhance this relationship and secure positive action.

                A letter to the 30 Home Bureau health chairmen urged them to appoint a woman in each school district to provide leadership to a cooperative program with the public dispensary and the Red Cross. The major objective was to provide physicals for the public school children. This was a very successful and beneficial project.

                Miss Brian reported in July of 1920, that 2,112 Child Labor Bureau bulletins were mailed to 435 families with 524 children.

                Part of the health curriculum offered to the Home Bureau units was home nursing, but at first this did not seem to be a program that was chosen by many of the groups. Reports indicated that individuals called for this information as needed.

Accounting and Management

                McLean County ’s success in introducing homemakers to an accounting program received national acclaim. By 1939, some county residents had kept home accounts for 20 years.

                The accounting system was developed at the University of Illinois by state specialists, and each year the books were sent to the state for evaluation. The account keepers received a written report plus a summary of data from the aggregate of all books submitted.

                In 1936, a seven-part series on homemakers who kept accounts with the University of Illinois system featured Miss Lavon Kinsey of McLean, Mrs. Peter Ropp of Normal, Mrs. Harry G. Johnson of Normal, Mrs. Arthur Weheier of Stanford, Mrs. E.D. Lawrence of Bloomington, Mrs. George Condon of Carlock, and Mrs. Park Kerbaugh of Allin Township. Featured with some of the account keepers were the two office secretaries, Gertrude Bird and Agnes Huth, who had the yearly task of forwarding the account books to the university.

                Accounts were quickly recognized as one part of a larger management picture, and other programs incorporated a management section. Homemakers were encouraged to write out menus, canning record sheets were distributed so a total number of food preserves could be reported, and millinery class participants did cost comparisons on hats made as opposed to ready-made.

                Because the care of chicken was most often delegated to the farm wife, Miss Brian initiated lessons on management of the flock. This was recognized as a “new phase of Home Bureau work,” and it began with the culling of the “slackers.”

                When the stories of this lesson start, so do the smiles. It was not an academic exercise, but a demonstration in the farm lot.

                As a result of one lesson, a flock of 86 penned chickens was culled. The homemaker reported that 36 of these were identified as slackers, laying 1 egg in five days. The remaining 58 chickens laid 43 eggs in 5 days. Record keeping of this kind had real meaning for the keepers of the flocks. They could move from that understanding to an appreciation for other types of account keeping, but not everyone expanded the record keeping, preferring to concentrate on the poultry accounts only.

                The value of the demonstration method of teaching as used so successfully in Home Bureau work, is apparent in another anecdote about chicken culling.

                A young women who had responsibility for the care and feeding of chickens on the family farm had seen the culling demonstration. Later she heard the report of the Home Bureau member whose flock had been culled. When she went home and announced she was going to follow this new practice, her father objected. She culled the flock, however, despite his remarks. When she had demonstrated the success of increased production, the father became a strong advocate of the practice.

                Miss Brian’s tenure in McLean County spanned two world wars and the Great Depression. With World War I years behind her, she planned and educated to help the people through the changing postwar years. Then when the economic crisis came, she retooled and began to work with thrift and scarcity.

                In the depression years, families needed new sources of income. When farm families were burning corn for heat because there was no market for their crop, the Home Bureau and Miss Brian began to look at ways of getting other products to market.

                The Home Bureau organized a farmers’ market in the first floor of the Farm Bureau building at the corner of Center and Monroe Street . Many families sold butter, eggs, dressed chickens, baked goods, etc. through this outlet.

                When it became necessary to candle eggs for sale to the public, Miss Brian taught this technique to the homemakers. This allowed the women to continue to market their eggs.

                Gladys Rhoades of the Hudson unit was a charter member of the organization. She recalls her last week at the farmers’ market. Two churnings in that week yielded 72 pounds of butter. All of it was worked, formed into pound blocks, and wrapped in butter paper to be marketed.

                Another time, she remembers dressing 24 fryers to sell. She started with gathering the flock by feeding them some corn. Then, using a long wire with a hook on the end, she caught 24 chickens, killed then and dressed them. This was done between 2:00 and 6:00 the afternoon before market day. The dressed chickens were stored in the ice chest overnight.

                Another Home Bureau venture, which met with considerable success, was a lunchroom in downtown Bloomington operated by the Home Bureau. The food service was opened in the front part of a store in the beginning, and later moved into a separate rented location.

                A manager was hired for the business, and the food was prepared by the members and placed on consignment in the shop. Lunches and dinners were served six days a week, and the downtown workers found this a great convenience.

                Helping families through innovative programs was typical of Clara Brian’s approach to Home Bureau work.


“Textiles,” was the umbrella title which included lessons on clothing for the family and interior design. By 1921, 15 of the township units had completed a course of study, which included making and hanging curtains and clothing construction. Demonstrations and workshops made these courses very practical.

                Over 50 women had made their own dress forms at county workshops within the first year of the program. This was an all day project, which was a large investment of time for the homemaker. But the result was a relatively inexpensive sewing aid, something usually not within the budget of the average woman.

                Miss Agnes Huth, office secretary, described the rather tedious technique during an interview.

                Construction started with the making of a base from a knit fabric tube, which conformed to the models figure. This base was then covered with strips of heavy brown paper applied on the human model. A process for gluing and stiffening came next, and then there was the drying time as the model remained immobile and in a standing position.

                When the form was dry, the model emerged from the “cocoon” by having a slit cut up the center back. Rejoining the back slash with more paper strips and glue and placing the form on a stand gave the model a replica of her body on which to fit her garments. Of course, this assumed that she didn’t change size.

                Hats were an essential part of the wardrobe of the 20’s and 30’s so hat making was included in the textile classes.  Reports from the participants in one of these first classes list the cost of making a hat from $2.50 to $3.95. One woman cited savings of $10.00 to $15.00 on one very fancy hat. What was most important, however, was that she was able to get a hat to fit her head size, “something almost impossible before.”

                Girls 4-H Club work started very early in McLean County , and by 1925 there were 19 clothing clubs with 212 members. The girls reported 815 garments made, 53 garments made over, 245 garments mended, and 220 stockings darned. Thirty-three girls were doing the family mending.

                As the depression years gripped the Midwest , there was an increased emphasis on thrift. Several people still quote Miss Brian’s philosophy:” Use it up, wear it out, or do without.”

                Lessons on fabric dyeing and remodeling clothing were in demand. One member reported successfully dyeing her husband’s suit, and she expressed appreciation for having learned how to save so much money. Remodeling clothing and making clothes for the children from a discarded man’s suit or woman’s dress were other economies taught in Home Bureau classes.

                In 1931, consumer and/or sewing skills were involved in the “One-dollar Dress” contest. This was a unit and a county competition, which brought into focus many facets of consumerism and clothing construction. What the reports did not reflect was how difficult it was to secure the dollar to spend, or how many could not compete for the lack of that sum of money.

                Home decorating lessons were early favorites, and Miss Brian’s philosophy of making the home more efficient and healthful provided additional emphasis when these courses of study were elected by a unit.

                For those groups studying window treatments, a miniature window frame was used to demonstrate the correct way to measure and hang curtains or draperies. Miss Brian carried this equipment to the units so the members would have the visual instruction as well as the lecture.

                Rug making was another furnishings lesson, and at one time the Home Bureau had a loom, which could be used by its members. Miss Huth recalls helping those who came to use the loom, and in some cases she actually wove the rugs from the cut strips, which were brought.

                In other years, decorative pottery was studied. Tours were taken to some of the nearby pottery factories, including Morton and Lincoln. The visit introduced the women to the manufacturing process and provided an opportunity to see the newest designs, and, and of course to by from the showroom.

                Other years the presentation illustrated the historic development of kitchens, the newest in household equipment, and a variety of subjects that were meaningful to families. These events “gave opportunity for creative expression and getting acquainted with members from all parts of the county.

                For the 25 years Miss Brian worked in McLean County she helped the families and individuals to cope with the day-to-day tasks, and the environment in which those tasks were performed. People were encouraged to develop an interest and a belief in their ability to favorably alter that environment.

                Countywide home and farmstead beautification contests were sponsored through the Home Bureau. A tour of the newly landscaped gardens of Mrs. Spencer Ewing was held in conjunction with one such contest. Jens Jensen was the landscape architect. It was an excellent example of the contribution gardens and planned outdoor spaces can make to the home environment.

                “Pageants of Progress” were presented on a bi-yearly basis. This was a means of reaching new audiences and to showcase the educational work of the Home Bureau.

                Miss Brian described the pageant held at the Deere Building on South Main Street . The topic was “Artificial Lighting in the Home.”

“The display showed the light obtained from a cloth dipped in the fat in can, candles, kerosene lamps, etc. to the latest fixtures in gas and electricity. Needless to say the public who passed by as well as the women who had assembled the display knew more about interior lighting then they did before the pageant was held.”

Expanding Needs and Interests

                As the Home Bureau developed and the members and county residents began to understand the capabilities of the organization, the program was expanded. Continuing education of the adviser and growth in the knowledge base created by ongoing research made possible the matching of extension programs to the needs of the county residents.

                The Home Bureau organizational experience was developing excellent leadership among the members. It was time for a new program area called “Home and Community.” Certainly, this was commensurate with Miss Brian’s philosophy about women’s roles outside the home.

                In 1923, Miss Brian conducted 27 lessons on “Home and Community” with an attendance of 670 people while Home Bureau members reached 255 members at 14 programs on the same topic.

                “Home and Community” was described as one of the most popular courses given in the county. Topics ranged from laws affecting women and children to the value of close cooperation between schools, churches and homes.

                The Illinois Home Bureau and county affiliates were members of the Associated Countrywomen of the World. And when the international conference was held in Washington , D.C. a delegation of homemakers went from McLean County . The women were becoming citizens of the world as well.

                Mrs. Lou Hartzold of Danvers recalls the trip with much enthusiasm. The overnight train ride, staying in a hotel for the first time, the contact with women of other nations, and meeting with Illinois legislators were exciting and beneficial experiences.

                Women at work in the community could make a difference, the Home Bureau members learned.

                Activities, which would improve the rural areas, were given special attention. So, when the Illinois Art Association announced a five-year campaign for the beautifying of country school grounds, the McLean County Home Bureau was involved. Miss Brian took pictures of the rural schools in the country as the “before” pictures to document starting conditions. These were used later to evaluate the progress of various schools.

                A charter member of the McLean County home Bureau commented that Miss Brian was always interested in foods and children. This became apparent as she focused on children and family relations in her in-service education. During September and October of 1924, Miss Brian took a vacation to observe the work being done in care and discipline of children at the Merrill-Palmer School in Detroit , Michigan . When she returned to the county, four classes for young mothers were organized. They had to have a child under six years of age, and a minimum of 10 people in the group. The focus of the study was “the training of the child physically, mentally, morally and spiritually.”

                Utilizing all of the resources available, the Home Bureau secured a scale from the Mead-Johnson Company. A program of weighing and measuring the children of the women in the study group was initiated. Resulting data was compared with charts prepared by the Illinois State Health Department. In few cases where the children were underweight, appropriate diets were planned and discussed with the mothers.

                Training of pre-school children was quite new in Illinois , and Clara Brian was the person who initiated this work. Perhaps this growing interest in child growth and rearing resulted in the adviser resigning her position in McLean County in 1926 to accept the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Scholarship to study child training at the University of Minnesota .

                Her leave-taking message stated:

“Home Bureau Work in McLean County is getting on a good basis. The women are beginning to believe in the organization and to see its possibilities. The social side of Home Bureau work to them is worth all it costs, as it is the only organization financed by Federal Funds for women and, next to the church, the Adviser considers it the most important organization for women that has ever been organized.”

Miss Esther Kahle succeeded Miss Brian, and the work continued for 15 months. However, ill health caused her to resign before completing two years as home adviser.

The Home Bureau organization continued the work for the next nine months. The board met regularly and countywide events were sometimes substituted for unit work. It was a period when the leadership which the women had developed was apparent, and it was put to the test in those 10 months.

It must have been with great relief that Mrs. Simon Moon reported to the Home Bureau that she had received a letter from Kathryn Van Aken Burns, assistant director of the home economics extension.

Mrs. Burns had met Miss Brian at a home economics meeting in Des Moines , Iowa . She learned that Miss Brian’s study was completed, and more significantly, Miss Brian did not have a position for the next year.  Burns indicated that other states were interested in Miss Brian, but that she would like to see her home in McLean County . Miss Brian was returning to her home immediately after the conference, so they could reach her there.  “I know she has always had a soft spot in her heart for the McLean County H.B.” Mrs. Burns added.

And so Mrs. Brian returned to continue in the home adviser role she had so capably and carefully created.

A Sense of Safety

                After her return to the county, Miss Brian initiated a study, which would benefit families through an increased understanding of accidents in the home. It was another first for McLean County women.

                A detailed study of home accidents was undertaken. This was done by distributing accident report blanks to the Home Bureau members. Their cooperation was requested, and they were to keep a record of any accident in which a physician was called or the victim was unable to work for more than half a day. The resulting data were the basis for some early farm safety statistics.

                County pageants continued to be staged by the Home Bureau on alternate years. These were designed to showcase the work of the Home Bureau and to educate. Excellent cooperation from the Chamber of Commerce, local merchants, the Home Bureau units, and other facets of the community were reported. The events included equipment fairs, health expositions, fashion and textile fairs, and pageants of cookery. It was noted that at the latter there were 7,000 people in attendance.

                Recreation was stressed over the years; these community programs provided interaction that extended beyond the home and church. One of the Home Bureau members interviewed expressed the opinion that these events broke down ethnic barriers in many areas of the county.

                Remembrances of these times include the staffing of plays, group singing, product exhibits, fantastic potluck meals, and warm fellowship. More then one interviewee told of the judging that was a part of many of these events. Special mention was made by several of the soap judging which Miss Brian did. Method: place a pinch of homemade lye soap on her tongue to taste. She said that if the product was well mixed there would be no taste of lye, and it was a very good product.

                Joint Home Bureau and Farm Bureau picnics were another important event of each summer. As many as 4,000 people attended some of these gatherings.

                Work with agencies continued to grow. Miss Brian designed the kitchen for the tuberculosis sanitarium; she planned menus for the Girl’s Industrial Home, and helped in time and motion management with the YWCA’s food service. Literally, she was an adviser to all the people of the county.  Miss Clara Brian and the McLean County Home Bureau were a well-matched team.

Involving the Youth

The earliest extension work done with youth was with summer programs. This involved hiring a person to work with the young people.

                Mrs. Lucille Hartzold of Danvers remembered being part of a good-nutrition pageant that was taken to the state fair. Each of the girls was dressed as a vegetable and they participated in a large parade while there.

                Miss Brian noted in her personal diary: “ I feel I organized the first 4-H girls’ club at Towanda on July 8, 1918 and on July 11 organized a girls’ club at Downs with 14 members.

                In the first year 17 clubs for girls were organized with sewing, canning and bread making the areas of study. Some of these club members went to the state fair and earned blue ribbons and Dorothy Basting won a trip to the national stock show at Chicago .

                Sometime after her retirement, Miss Brian wrote:

                “If I were to analyze the value of the extension work the first place perhaps would be given to 4-H Club work. However, without the broadening knowledge which extension work has given to adults, there would not be the sympathetic understanding between parents and youth for their work. The youth of today is the nation of tomorrow.

                The first 4-H Club fair was held for a few hours the afternoon of September 18, 1919 in connection with the McLean County Breeders Association. There were 22 exhibits.

                The 4-H Club program grew and the fair grew over the years. This was, and still is, the only fair held in McLean County . The spotlight is on youth and their accomplishments.


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 McLean County HCE