Virginia P. Moore Collection

Virginia Pearl Moore was the first home demonstration agent in Tennessee. Born in 1880 in Gallatin, Tennessee, she graduated from Peabody Normal School in Nashville. After teaching briefly at a rural school near her hometown, she was appointed state organizer of School Improvement Work in 1909 with Tennessee’s Department of Education, where she worked to improve the condition of rural schools across the state. A year later, Moore’s title changed to State Collaborator for Tennessee; she continued her work on school improvement while also beginning home demonstration work, in particular organizing canning clubs for the young girls in these rural areas. Through canning clubs (sometimes called tomato clubs) girls learned to grow and can their own produce and, to show off what they had learned, hosted demonstrations for their friends and families, and entered competitions at county and state fairs.

In 1914, Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act establishing extension services at land-grant universities, and Moore became Assistant Director and State Home Demonstration Agent for Tennessee, working with the University of Tennessee and the Division of Extension at the College of Agriculture. Her home demonstration work expanded to incorporate all aspects of domestic life, including cooking, sewing, cleaning, and managing home finances. Moore saw her work as not only improving the lives of young rural women through the acquisition of modern skills but also as providing them a broader education than the classroom.