Ordinary women doing extraordinary things

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, May 9, 2017

JACKSON – Women have a long history of serving the families of Northampton County as Home Demonstration Agents with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

On Wednesday, May 3, several ladies formerly of the county’s Extension Agency gathered together to celebrate their work and to dedicate a book commemorating the history of women in the state’s Cooperative Extension.

The morning gathering at the Northampton Museum in Jackson was the idea of former agent Autrey Jenkins, who served many years to educate rural families in a variety of subjects, including vegetable canning, basket weaving, and pine needle crafts.

“Our heritage is very important to us,” Jenkins said as she welcomed everyone in attendance.

The main purpose of the reunion was to present the book “Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Service to family, community and North Carolina” to the museum.

The book covers all 100 counties of the state. Its section about Northampton, however, only contained a photo of Christine Brown who served as the county’s first Home Demonstration Agent.

In order to educate people on Christine Brown’s life and work, Jenkins and Rose Massey worked together to create an expanded biography to add.

Originally from Greensboro, Christine attended Guilford College where she majored in home economics and also met her husband, David Brown. David, a native of Woodland, married Christine in 1915 and they later moved back to Northampton County to settle down.

As a Home Demonstration Agent, Christine began at first simply teaching women how to can tomatoes. The biography cites an incident showing how dedicated she was to her job: she and her husband once drove out to answer a midnight call to help seal leaking tomato cans.

Home Demonstration was renamed as Home Economics in 1963 and then as Family and Consumer Science (FCS) in 1995. This is what it’s still known as today.

The county’s current FCS Agent, EB Odom, presented a copy of the book with the updated Brown bio affixed inside the front cover for future display in the museum.

The former agents in attendance happily shared stories of their years of work with the county, talking about fun past incidents while also taking the time to remember the ones who’ve already passed on.

A copy of Christine Brown’s cheese biscuit recipe was given to everyone at the celebratory event along with a batch of fresh warm biscuits to taste.

As the Extension Workers Creed, which was read to close the presentation, states “I believe in my own work and in the opportunity I have to make my life useful to mankind. Because I believe these things, I am an extension worker.”

There’s no doubt that these women upheld those words each day and still continue to do so.