Dakota Datebook

Gender Roles

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


In the early settlement of the state of North Dakota, many men tried their hand at homesteading. Some women homesteaded, too, but for the most part, traditional roles prevailed, with the women taking care of the home front and any children who came along.


Such gender roles made the news in Grafton in 1931 as this “norm” was keeping many fathers away from their children’s upbringing to the point that there was “an idea …growing more prevalent among the regular attendants at Parent-Teachers association meetings, that the majority of Grafton school children are fatherless, so to speak.”


So, in order to counter that idea, on this date in 1931, the fathers of Grafton’s school kids decided to show their presence by running a parent-teacher conference, hoping to keep the parents group from developing into a “mothers” circle.


The Grafton News and Times reported: “the four men who acted during the PTA membership drive as high school class representatives, assisted by Superintendent M. B. Zimmerman, are taking complete charge of Monday night’s entertainment, which they expect will be above anything attempted in the association heretofore. It will be in the form of a ‘Surprise’ program, with an entire male cast, and the men are making an urgent appeal to all fathers of Grafton school children to ‘stand by’ in the coming event, and try to outnumber the mothers in attendance.”


The event was well-populated by both men and women, with approximately 100 people, including members of the PTA and friends, gathered at the high school auditorium.


The men’s program included an opening number, a group of musical selections involving accordion, banjo, cornet, and vocal solos. Several speakers followed. After the meeting, the home economics class served “a nice lunch.”


The newspaper reported, “true to their determination to make it an all male affair [the men] presented a program of numbers that was enjoyed by the audience which included more than the usual number of men, thereby vindicating their own sex in the eyes of the PTA attending public.”


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker



Grafton News and Times: Wednesday, Jan. 21, 1931; Wednesday, Jan. 28, 1931


This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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