Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Flora Black (1870-1951)

Flora Black Marker in Somerset County, PASomerset County, PA

Marker Text: On this farm lived Flora Black, a civic leader active in the county and Commonwealth. Here on October 14, 1914, she organized the Society of Farm Women of Pennsylvania. In the ensuing years, groups in many Pennsylvania counties became Society affiliates, in furtherance of its aim to strengthen the role of farm women and promote better conditions in farm homes across the Commonwealth.

Location: On U.S. Route 219, three miles northwest of Meyersdale, PA.  Erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 2006. Note: This marker may have been a replacement for an earlier marker dedicated in 1989.
"Being it is necessary and advisable to perpetuate that which was good in the pioneer homes of our grandmothers; and to preserve their spirit of patriotism and sacrifice; to foster a love for the farm and rural life of today; to uphold the dignity of farming, to teach the responsibility that lies in working the soil; to enhance the charm of a real country home; therefore to create and maintain organized groups to accomplish these ends, we, the Society of Farm Women of Pennsylvania, do associate ourselves together and adopt this constitution" Preamble, Official Bylaws and Constitution, Society of Farm Women, 1951.
Flora Black Marker along Route 219 in Somerset County, PA
Photo taken looking north on Route 219.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  Flora Snyder was born in Somerset, PA on February 20, 1870. As a girl growing up in rural Pennsylvania, she helped her mother and learned the skills necessary to be a good wife and mother. After attending schools in Somerset, Snyder went to the Maryland College for Women. In 1883, she married Franklin B. Black and assumed the duties of a rural wife and mother of four children. She applied the knowledge she learned as a youngster to keep her family's home. She did miss the social networks she had experienced during her college years. Mrs. Black became convinced that farm women should also have time to get together for "fun and learning."

  For centuries American farm women had been up before dawn to make breakfast, make the family's clothing, cook, wash, tend the children and kitchen garden, and work in the fields. New technologies, the mechanization of farm work and housework, and the growth of the nation's thriving consumer economy and culture were transforming their lives along with those of other Americans.
  Before the American Civil War, farming communities had enjoyed living standards, amenities, and even cultural institutions on a par with those found in cities. But rapid urbanization and decreasing economic opportunities in rural regions created a huge gap between the city and the countryside. Young women especially left the country for the excitement and the jobs to be found in the cities. For many youth fleeing the farm, even for a ten-hour-a-day factory job seemed an attractive alternative to the incessant labor of farming.
Flora Black marker and her home in the background.
The farm where Flora Black lived is in the background.

  Isolation was an experience more common in the western U.S. than in Pennsylvania, where women continued to cultivate a rich range of social contacts, helped along in due time by the automobile. The industrialization of dairy and poultry production, work long done by women, coupled with the opening of non-farm occupations, like teaching and factory work, propelled young women toward the cities. Holding onto their belief in the virtues of farm life and rural values, some of these rural women joined local granges and social clubs to socialize and to promote their vision of America. In the 1910's, Mrs. Flora Black helped found a new social network for women in Pennsylvania.
  On October 14, 1914, Flora Black and a dozen neighbors founded "Die Hausfrauen," an organization "to contribute to the power and influence of farm women; to contribute to the community activity of farm women; to develop leadership and promote better living and working conditions in the farm homes of Pennsylvania." (The name means "the housewives" in German, and reflected the Pennsylvania German backgrounds of many of the charter members.) As anti-German sentiment grew during American involvement in World War I, the founders in 1917 changed the name of the organization to the "Society of Farm Women."
  During World War I, members of the Society of Farm Women participated in local, state, and national campaigns to conserve resources and provide relief to people in need. A member of the Council of National Defense and Belgian Relief, Flora Black also worked with the Emergency Aid Society of the Pennsylvania Red Cross, and the National Food Administration. By 1918 women in eight Pennsylvania counties had formed chapters of the Society of Farm Women. In 1919, they held their first state convention at Black's "Holland Farms" home and elected her president of the new state organization. The following year, Governor William C. Sproul invited them to hold their second state convention in the state Capitol building. (They have met annually in Harrisburg ever since.)
  Flora Black served eleven years (1914-1925) as president of the society she founded, and two terms as president of the Somerset County branch (1914-1918 and 1927-1929). Active in the Society until her death in 1951, she was also deeply interested in family and state history, and served on the Pennsylvania Historical Commission in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1998, the Society of Farm Women had 2,772 members in 159 societies throughout the state.
Wind Turbines found throughout Somerset County, PA  Traveling through Somerset County today, a person can see a new kind of farming occurring among the rural areas, wind farms. Leasing property for these wind turbines among the crops of existing farms have helped many farms to remain economically viable.  Above photo is of a few of the wind turbines you will see travelling on Route 219 in Somerset County, PA.


  1. Correction: Should read 1883- "In 1983, she married Franklin B. Black and assumed the duties of a rural wife and mother of four children."

    1. Thanks for catching that error in the date.