Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending the evening with the Node Homemakers Club of Lusk as two of its members baked pies for the Niobrara County Fair.
When I heard the term “homemakers,” I pictured a group of elderly women who held onto the age-old idea that “the woman’s place is in the home,” sewing, knitting, exchanging recipes. From my research before meeting these women, I gathered that it was mostly a social club.
While these perceptions match the groups’ origins, they do not represent its present.
These clubs were born out of pioneer women’s desire to meet other women. In the early 20th century when they were started, these women lived with their husbands and children on ranches positioned miles apart from the next one. At this point, most married women did not work, and their primary job was to take care of the home, hence the term “homemaker.”
Node Homemakers’ Club President Heather Polen proudly told me women used to tread through snow and other rough elements to attend meetings, because it might be the only time they see another woman for a long time.
I admire stay-at-home moms and dads. I could not imagine taking care of children all day long, chasing them around while simultaneously working to keep a house in order, make dinner, take children to extracurricular activities and more. The early Homemakers recognized the difficulty, and they used these meetings to not only socialize and perhaps let off some steam, but they also traded tips in cooking, cleaning, sewing and other traditionally domestic tasks. Think about it: there was no social media to reach out to others for advice on things. These groups were like today’s Pinterest boards.
Fast forward nearly 70 years, Homemakers are still alive. One member referred to them as “a dying breed,” because I wasn’t too far off with my age estimation of these ladies. It’s not an elderly group, but they primarily consist of older women. Young women aren’t joining. They didn’t have a reason for me as to why this is the case, but I would assume it has to do with the stigma around the word “Homemaker.”
It seemingly excludes women who work outside of the home. I found that wasn’t actually the case, as I know at least that Polen works, and they invited me to consider joining, and obviously, I have a job here at the newspaper.
Another misconception is that all this group does is bake and sew and gossip. Though a newer element, the three different organizations in Niobrara County each support different charities or causes. One makes bereavement teddy bears for people who’ve experienced a loss. Node Homemakers fundraise and advocate for Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that assists law enforcement in rescuing victims of sex trafficking. These women are passionate about the work they do, which signals a shift in the future of Homemakers clubs. Polen said this shift is not just indicative of social consciousness of members, but it is also necessary for the tradition’s survival.
As I listened to members talk about how these groups are like a sisterhood, I couldn’t help but compare them to sororities in my mind. I debated on whether it would be offensive to ask, but ultimately decided I had to know: are these groups almost like sororities?
Polen assured me that yes, they are something of a sorority. But, without the animosity and competition between them. There are Homemakers clubs in Goshen and Niobrara counties, but their members claim they all exist in harmony.
I was not in a sorority in college and I had some negative thoughts toward them in general, which is why the idea of a Homemakers club sparked an interest. After an hour and a half of masterful pie making and good conversation, I have a great deal of respect for women in Homemakers clubs and their desire to simultaneously keep tradition alive while working to make their groups better. I might even accept the invitation to join.