School Gardening programs were popular in the early 20th Century across the United States. This is a paper I wrote in a methods course for Dr. Pero Dagbovie at Michigan State which looks at the people who promoted these gardens in Grand Rapids:


The historiography of school gardening in the United States has few contributions. The works that exist draw heavily from official documents and other primary sources which tell the story from an institutional point of view and are mainly outside the discipline. This paper is an
exploratory study searching out the social institutions and cultural assumptions of women in Grand Rapids, Michigan who were instrumental in starting school gardening programs and maintaining them for about ten years. It focuses primarily on four women between 1900 and
1915 when the school gardens started along with home flower garden programs sponsored by various civic organizations and led by the Grand Rapids Ladies Literary Club. Close reading of mostly newspapers uncovers a complicated set of cultural and social characteristics and suggests
that a corrective rural sensibility supporting white supremacy though eugenics motivated garden leaders. While more research is called for to strengthen this argument, it suggests a much-needed critical interpretation of the history of urban agriculture in the United States.

“Better Flowers and Better Vegetables Easily Leads to the Subject of Better People”: Back Down the Garden Paths of Progressive Era Reform in Grand Rapids, Michigan.