From washboards to keyboards: 100 years of EHYC service

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Arkansas Extension Homemakers Clubs celebrated their 100 year anniversary in Hot Springs, June 5-7. Along with the educational and how to classes, the business sessions, the exhibitors, the various meetings, the displays, and the award presentations, was a gala celebration whose attendees included dignitaries and representatives from the Arkansas Senate, the Arkansas House of Representatives, the Arkansas Governor's office, the Arkansas Children's Hospital, the Pryor Center, the Arkansas History Commission, the University of Arkansas System, the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture-Extension, and others paying tribute to an organization that has made significant contributions to improving the life of Arkansans for 100 years.

Mississippi County attendees at the Arkansas Extension Homemakers Clubs 100 year anniversary convention included: From left: Carolyn Atkinson, Leachville; Marilyn Shearin, Blytheville, Miss. Co. EHC Secretary; Carolyn Smallwood, Blytheville, Miss. Co. EHC President; and Pamela Pruett, Miss. Co. FCS Agent. Carolyn Atkinson is wearing a reproduction of an outfit worn by her mother in the 1920's.

Many Arkansas EHC attendees dressed in attire reflecting a range of ages in the history of AEHC making the gala a fashion parade of history. The various speakers praised the contributions of the organization and gave many examples of the impact AEHC has had on the state and its citizens throughout the one hundred year span of volunteer service. The Arkansas House, Senate, and Governor's office all presented proclamations honoring AEHC.

Betty Bumpers, Former First Lady of Arkansas, shared how she utilized the highly organized AEHC members to oversee the 1970 Early Childhood Immunization efforts in Arkansas, which served as a model for other states.

Dr. Jeffrey Kaiser, Neonatal Department, UAMS, Arkansas Children's Hospital, cited the contribution that AEHC has made to his research on treating bleeding in the brain in tiny premature infants. He explained that in his studies, a probe had to be placed on the head of the tiny one to two pound infants. The problem was holding the probe in place. When using tape, it would tear the tiny infants' paper-thin skin. One of the medical personnel found a small knitted cap donated by an AEHC member. The tiny cap had small holes that would hold the probe in place and not damage the premature infants' skin. The researcher contacted the University of Arkansas Extension Service EHC Volunteer Coordinator and a partnership was formed with Arkansas Extension Homemakers Clubs in which hundreds of tiny little caps began pouring in to aid the researchers in their project. Dr. Kaiser has published numerous articles in medical journals citing the contribution that the AEHC's tiny knitted hats have had on the lives of these very tiny infants, their grateful parents, and researchers.

Other endeavors of the AEHC that were praised by speakers included the 1960 Cemetery Recording Project for the Arkansas History Commission. AEHC members were asked to undertake the gigantic task of recording the information on headstones in cemeteries in Arkansas so that important historical information would be preserved for future generations. Devoting countless hours of volunteer service and braving less than ideal conditions, AEHC members again accomplished the task put before them.

Currently, the Pryor Center ( launched on its website at the convention, an Oral History of AEHC. Members throughout the state have recorded and will be recording their memories of the history of Arkansas Extension Homemakers in their county which are then posted on the website. Susan Kendrick-Perry, Assistant Director of Operations at the Pryor Center, remarked on the importance of an oral history told in the words of the person who lived during that time period and the richness of capturing the dialect of residents of different counties in the state.

A book recounting the history of Arkansas Extension Homemakers Clubs debuted at the AEHC convention. A University of Arkansas at Little Rock, graduate student, Elizabeth Griffin Hill, contacted the University of Arkansas, Department of Agriculture-Extension, EHC Volunteer Coordinator, Betty Oliver, regarding the history of EHC. Mrs. Oliver encouraged her to write a book on the history of AEHC which led to Mrs. Hill researching and writing, A Splendid Piece of Work, 1912-2012, One Hundred years of Arkansas's Home Demonstration and Extension Homemakers Clubs.

A section of the Extension Homemaker Creed states, "I believe that working together in a group we can enlarge the opportunities, enrich the life of our people, and create a more contented family and community life." The Mississippi County Extension Homemakers Clubs along with the seventy-four other county Extension Homemakers Clubs in Arkansas are currently involved in many volunteer service activities to continue the good works of the Arkansas Extension Homemakers Clubs.

For information on how to become a member of this dedicated group of community volunteers, contact Pamela Pruett, Mississippi County Family and Consumer Sciences Cooperative Extension Agent, at 870-762-2075 or Membership and programs are open to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status.

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