History of the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association
The origins of the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association can be traced to the beginning of the 20th century. Today’s collection of charitable, skilled, and knowledgeable Homemaker groups grew out of the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service’s early attempts to connect and educate rural women through home demonstration clubs or tomato clubs. Some early groups focused on canning or reading and reaching out to women on farms. Those humble beginnings have led to an extensive network of women sharing information that would make their domestic lives easier including home economics, new technologies and goods, agricultural skills, food conservation and preservation, and domestic skills.
As early as 1912, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture made some contacts with farm women. This work included a demonstration train that carried a staff of lecturers with demonstration materials. Then came the movable schools that were usually three or four days long and made extensive use of exhibits and illustrative material.
On October 1, 1913, Mrs. Helen B. Wolcott was appointed as State Agent. Her task was to organize Extension work in home economics through county workers. The program work was largely along the lines of food preservation, clothing conservation, health, and sanitation. By 1914, Home Demonstration Agents were serving in Christian, Daviess, Harlan, Henderson, Laurel, Logan, Madison, Magoffin, Mercer, Muhlenberg, Rockcastle, and Whitley counties. Some of the early appointments were on a short-term basis, and the agents’ work was mainly giving instructions in canning tomatoes to girls and women.
After the federal Smith-Lever Act passed in 1914, the scope of Home Economics Extension increased rapidly with the purpose of extending the knowledge of a land-grant university to the people of the state. Increased funding meant the number of specialists, supervisors, and County Home Demonstration Agents increased dramatically. The Home Demonstration Agents started Home Demonstration Clubs and began organizing farm women for homemakers’ work.
After a series of short-term leaders, Miss Myrtle Weldon began her tenure on June 1, 1924, with a staff of 24 Home Demonstration Agents in as many counties. She also organized the State Specialists into a resident Home Economics staff.
In 1924, a county organization guide was written, outlining a suggested constitution to counties. By the end of 1925, a majority of the 24 counties had perfected their county organization and had adopted the suggested constitution, with a few adaptations to meet local needs. This form of organization was an effective way to develop leadership, delegate responsibility, secure local participation, and develop effective procedures.
In 1932, after several years of discussion and interest, the county Homemakers unified into a state organization to strengthen their voice, to further develop leadership, and to broaden horizons. This group, named the Kentucky Federation of Homemakers, was organized during Farm and Home Week with Mrs. Lyda Lynch Hall of Fayette County as its first State President.
The Kentucky Federation of Homemakers soon wrote a constitution for the 29 counties that were members at the time. By 1939, 59 counties were members, and 108 counties had joined the Federation by 1958.
The first dues were 2 cents per member. Homemakers raised this amount to 5 cents per member, and in 1958 increased dues to 15 cents per member, payable to the State Treasurer of the Federation by November 30 of each year. In 1964, dues became payable on January 1, based on the membership as of the preceding December 1. The group increased dues to 25 cents per member in 1970, and in 1974, again increased dues to 50 cents per member. Dues increases have continued periodically over time.
In 1938, the Reading Committee established the Homemakers Library, which sent library books to counties upon request. The library served many people until it was disbanded in 1953.
The original four Standing Committees ― Membership, Publicity, Reading, and Citizenship ― were gradually expanded to 11 ― Cultural Arts, Citizenship and Community Outreach, Clothing and Textiles, Family Life, Foods and Nutrition, Health, Housing, Energy and Environment, Management and Family Economics, 4-H, Public Information and Young Homemaker. The number of state educational committees was reduced to three in 1993 ― Family, Environment, and Global/International. The number expanded back to today’s eight in 2001 – 4-H Youth Development; Cultural Arts and Heritage; Environment, Housing and Energy; Family and Individual Development; Food, Nutrition and Health; International; Leadership Development; and Management and Safety
The first scholarship KEHA established was the Myrtle Weldon Student Loan Fund in 1943 in appreciation of the leadership of Miss Myrtle Weldon. The fund made money available at a low rate of interest to deserving Home Economics students.
In 1962, the Kentucky Federation of Homemakers established the Good Neighbor Fund at the request of Mrs. Carl Evans, the president at that time. In 1974, the state board honored Mrs. Evans by including her name in the fund’s title, renaming it the Ella Evans Good Neighbor Fund.
In the 1960s, Murial Moore of Bardstown conceived the idea for a 5-cent postage stamp design. Kathleen Magyar contacted Norman Todhunter who did the artwork, then Magyar put it to graph. The United States Postal Service issued the stamp in 1964 in honor of the National Extension Homemakers Council.
Mrs. Ruth Saunders (Allen) became Acting Program Chairman of Home Economics Extension in the fall of 1965 and continued until her retirement in April 1968. During this period, the group transitioned from county planning to area planning.
At the March 1968 Annual Meeting, members approved a new constitution and changed the name to Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association (KEHA).
KEHA established the Viola K. Hansen Scholarship Fund in 1969 in appreciation for Dr. Hansen’s nine years of leadership of the Extension Home Economics program. An unfortunate accident resulted in her early retirement. The scholarship was awarded annually to a student attending the University of Kentucky College of Human Environmental Sciences.
In 1969, the position of Chairman of Home Economics Extension Programs changed to Assistant Director of Extension for Home Economics. With Dr. Doris Tichenor in this position from October 1, 1969 to 1984, emphasis returned to strengthening county programs.
Following the passing of Myrtle Weldon in 1971, KEHA awarded the first Myrtle Weldon Memorial Scholarship in 1972. In 1975, KEHA voted to discontinue the Myrtle Weldon Student Loan Fund and transferred the balance to the Myrtle Weldon Memorial Scholarship Fund.
At the 1974 Annual Meeting, KEHA voted to incorporate and change its name to Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association, Inc.
Under the guidance of the 1974-77 Cultural Arts Chairman, Kentucky Homemakers members compiled a record of all of Kentucky’s areas of cultural, scenic, and historical interest in the book Kentucky Treasure Trails. This book proved very helpful when traveling throughout the state to find interesting and unique sites.
A needlepoint tapestry of 120 county squares and six special squares woven together was formally presented to the Commonwealth of Kentucky on March 20, 1980. The tapestry, along with a descriptive book, A Labor of Love, was dedicated as it hung outside the rotunda in the Capitol on August 19, 1980. The tapestry remains on display in the Capitol Rotunda.
The print Homemaker by artist Bill Granstaff commemorating the 50th Anniversary of KEHA and was unveiled at the Kentucky Homemakers State Meeting on May 12, 1983. Items in the print depicted the Homemakers’ early projects and activities including a change purse, egg carton, old quilt, and canning jar and lids.
As part of a focus to secure more grants to expand programs, KEHA received a grant for the ABC's of Nursery Safety in 1987 and the Alcohol and Traffic Safety grant in 1988.
In spring 1994, the term Home Economics was officially changed to Family and Consumer Sciences, a term that more accurately describes the work done by Extension specialists and agents in Kentucky.
In April 1998, the title of Vice President for Public Policy was changed to Vice President for Leadership Development.
In November 2003, President Mabel Harned appointed a five-member Archives Committee: Evelyn Ballard, Mary Warfield, Shirley Fitzpatrick, Patty Ann Moorhead, and Jean Davis. In January 2005, this committee established KEHA’s official archives with the University of Kentucky Library. Since that time, additions have periodically been made to keep the archives current.
The objective of the KEHA International Program for 2003-2005 was to have a better understanding of Native Americans by working with Lame Deer Reservation and St. Labre schools in Montana. In 2003, KEHA members contributed 1,400 baby items; in 2004, more than 4,000 blankets and 2,000 pairs of socks were donated; and in 2005, 12,000 pounds of school supplies were collected and delivered. Two busloads of members traveled to Montana to meet the recipients and present the supplies and a check.
In 2004, money was no longer available to award three single scholarships so KEHA combined the three scholarship funds into one scholarship called the Evans/Hansen/Weldon Memorial Scholarship Fund. The scholarship is directed to graduating high school seniors or current college students pursuing a degree in a Family and Consumer Sciences discipline.
To support students at the University of Kentucky with interest in a career as a family and consumer sciences Extension agent, KEHA established an endowed scholarship in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment in 2007. The scholarship is awarded annually to a student in human environmental sciences with plans for a career in Extension.
In 2007, KEHA celebrated 75 years as an organization. Members kicked off a year of special events to observe the anniversary at the state annual meeting in Bowling Green. A special commemorative pin was designed and introduced. The theme for the year was “75 Years of Learning, Leading and Serving.”
In February of 2008, the Kentucky State Legislature recognized KEHA’s 75 years of service to the Commonwealth in partnership with University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Cooperative Extension Service. More than 400 KEHA members and Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agents attended the daylong celebration in Frankfort. The culmination of the anniversary took place at the 75th KEHA State Meeting at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville in May 2008 with the theme “Hats Off to Homemakers.”
In 2008, the International Program initiated a partnership with the Kentucky Academy, a kindergarten in the village of Adjeikrom in Ghana, West Africa. This project developed with assistance from Dr. Ann Vail, director of the School of Human Environmental Sciences and assistant director of FCS Extension, and Dr. Kwaku Addo, a native of Ghana and associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science. KEHA donated school supplies and raised funds to make capital improvements to the school building in 2008. In the summer of 2009, KEHA members and FCS agents toured the school and region to bring focus to this project. In 2010, KEHA support helped build a kitchen and dining pavilion for the Academy. The KEHA International Chairman traveled to Ghana in 2011 with a group from the University of Kentucky to continue the partnership. KEHA funded the purchase of furniture for the dining pavilion and further improvements to the facility. The projects in Ghana continued through 2019, and funds were raised and donated to construct a library in the village of Adjeikrom. In addition, KEHA members donated funds to purchase sewing machines and provided sewing supplies to establish a seamstress training program.
KEHA’s overall fundraising activity for international awareness and friendship was renamed “Coins for Change” in 2010. The name change allowed KEHA to continue to support the ACWW “Pennies for Friendship” program by sending fifty percent of funds to the London, England, office and maintained funding for KEHA’s International educational program on the international, national, and state levels.
The year 2012 marked the 80th anniversary of KEHA. To commemorate the occasion, KEHA commissioned artist John Ward to develop an anniversary print. The print, “Reflections,” was unveiled at the 2012 KEHA State Meeting and depicts a tranquil farm scene complete with horses, a quilt, and tire swing.
In 2013, KEHA’s focus turned to membership. A membership incentive drive with a new traveling trophy (Miss E. Go) was initiated. E. Go is an acronym for Everyone Get One ― each member should recruit a new member. The county who added the highest percentage of new members won $100 and the Miss E. Go trophy for 1 year, then shared her adventures the following year. In 2014, Miss Way to Go to was added to reward the county that added the largest number of new members (actual number versus percentage.) Like Ms. E. Go, Miss Way to Go has a monetary prize, and the winning county shares her adventures the following year.
As part of the celebration of the centennial for Family and Consumer Sciences Extension in 2013, KEHA joined in the work to establish the FCS Extension Legacy Fund at the University of Kentucky. Initial gifts honored the retirement of Dr. Laura Stephenson, Assistant Director for Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Field Programs. This fund is for UK Family and Consumer Sciences Extension to assist in professional development and program development, implementation, and evaluation. Donations may be made in honor of or in memory of someone. KEHA contributions totaled $7,805 as of June 30, 2016.
KEHA board members held a retreat in June 2015 focused on goal setting ― what is KEHA, what do we do well, what do we see as our future and how do we achieve this future? “SMART” goal teams were formed to focus on membership, public relations, training leaders, and making lessons relevant. The Membership Team initiated the 3 for 3 Membership Drive, challenging each county to increase membership by at least 3 new members for 3 consecutive years. In 2019, fourteen counties were recognized for achieving “3 for 3” and Meade County was randomly selected to receive the monetary award.
In an effort to build statewide comradery, the KEHA Choir was re-established in 2015. Directed by Wendy Hood, a member from Mercer County, the choir gave a moving first performance at the 2016 KEHA State Meeting. The choir continues and performs annually at the State Meeting.
During 2017-2018, the KEHA State Board added a Marketing and Publicity Chairman in an ad hoc three-year appointment. Jennifer Williams from Grant County was appointed for the initial term, and she then worked with the board to create a new brand identity. Voting delegates at the 2018 KEHA State Meeting officially approved the new logo.
During 2018-2019, the Preparing Future Leaders team from the KEHA Board proposed the establishment of a KEHA Leadership Academy to provide advanced leadership training for up to 30 emerging leaders in spring 2020. The board approved the proposal, along with a funding request, in March 2019, and the voting delegates approved both at the 2019 KEHA State Meeting. The approval process culminated three years of discussion, work, and planning. The Leadership Academy took place March 4-6, 2020 with 25 members participating.
In early 2019, KEHA was approached by the U.S. Census Bureau with an opportunity to construct a quilt representing each of Kentucky’s 120 counties for use in promoting the 2020 Census. The project was approved by the KEHA Board in March 2019 and announced to the membership at the May 2019 KEHA State Meeting. In less than four months, KEHA members in each county designed and produced a quilt square to represent their county. Grant County members positioned, pieced, quilted and finished the 2020 Census Quilt which was unveiled in September 2019 at a special ceremony at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.
March 2020 brought an unprecedented disruption to normal activities of daily life during the global coronavirus pandemic. Out of concern for the health and safety of members, the 2020 KEHA State Meeting was cancelled in its entirety. KEHA clubs, counties, areas, and the state organization were challenged by disruptions to normal operations for several months, and technology became a key tool to continue the work of the organization. Lessons were delivered remotely via Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube. The KEHA Board met via Zoom in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021.
While members were not meeting as in-person groups for much of 2020, they turned to individual acts of kindness and volunteer service. Producing home sewn face masks, isolation gowns, and/or surgical caps happened in KEHA member homes across the state. The 2020-2021 program of work reports indicated more than 63,000 face masks were made and/or donated by KEHA members. Kentucky First Lady Britainy Beshear called upon KEHA to join an initiative title “Coverings for Kids” to provide face masks for Kentucky schools.
A modified State Meeting was held in-person in June 2021, with health and safety measures including a change of date, a shortened schedule, a reduced attendance capacity, and adjustments to room set-ups. In-person annual meetings returned in some KEHA areas, but the pandemic altered a few scheduled meetings in 2021. The KEHA Board resumed meeting in person in fall 2021, and, for the first time, KEHA organized a full-day track for the February 2022 Kentucky Extension Volunteer Forum.
A full three-day KEHA State Meeting was held in May 2022 in Owensboro, Kentucky. This marked KEHA’s 88th State Meeting and 90th anniversary as a statewide organization. The KEHA choir resumed after a two-year pause and performed during the State Meeting. With continued positive feedback regarding the 2020 KEHA Leadership Academy, the membership voted to fund a second Leadership Academy for 2023.
KEHA and the Associated Country Women of the World
Since 1936, KEHA has been a member of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW). A delegation of about 300 women from Kentucky joined 6,700 other women from the United States in greeting representatives who attended that year’s Third Triennial Conference held in Washington, D.C. At each conference since, Kentucky has sent at least one delegate.
KEHA has been a member of the United States Liaison Committee, now the Country Women’s Council (CWC), since 1939. This group meets annually to promote the work of ACWW.
The bond with ACWW has strengthened throughout the years. In 1962, Mrs. R.P. Matchett of Kenton County was elected to serve as the ACWW Area Vice President for the United States and was re-elected for a second three-year term in 1965. KEHA members feel that they are links in a chain that reaches around the world. Their involvement with this worldwide group has broadened and deepened their sympathies, interests, and understanding. Programs today continue to reflect the unified resolutions and recommendations of ACWW.
KEHA and Its National Affiliations
The National Home Demonstration Council (NHDC) was created on June 1, 1936 during ACWW’s Triennial Meeting. In 1939, Mrs. Lyda Lynch Hall of Fayette County became the second president of the NHDC.
In 1956, the NHDC conducted a song contest. Mrs. Dorothy Bullock, a member from Larue County, submitted the song Onward, Ever Onward, which won and became the official song of the NHDC. The NHDC changed its name to the National Extension Homemakers Council (NEHC) in 1963.
An NEHC flag was introduced at the 1976 Annual NEHC Conference. Gladys C. Medley of Marshall County designed the flag and took her idea to Tommy Troutman, an artist in Paducah, who sketched and painted her design. The Board of Directors approved the flag, and at the 1975 Annual Meeting, they ordered that the flag lead the procession at the 1976 Annual Meeting. The flag was updated in 1992 after the name changed to National Association for Family and Community Education (NAFCE).
During the 1980s and early 1990s, KEHA found great value in NAFCE’s Family Community Leadership (FCL) program. The basic purpose of FCL was to improve the leadership and organizational skills of family members in order that they may participate more effectively in the identification, analysis, and resolution of public policy issues affecting families and communities.
A delegation of KEHA members, County Extension Agents for Home Economics Extension, and an advisor attended an FCL workshop in Florida in November 1985. After this meeting, delegates returned to Kentucky to conduct five workshops across the state with approximately 1,000 KEHA members participating. Through these workshops, KEHA trained its members to be effective leaders in their counties and communities.
A delegation of KEHA members, a specialist, and an advisor attended another FCL workshop in Denver, Colorado, in September 1986. Kentucky received a pilot grant of $2,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 1987 and a $50,000 grant to conduct the FCL program over a three-year period. An FCL Board was organized with equal representation of KEHA members and Extension faculty.
In 1989, the NEHC Board voted to locate the new National Headquarters in Burlington, Ky. KEHA President Patty Ann Moorhead and Boone County District Extension Board President Bill Smith played a major role in the NEHC site visit.
At the KEHA Annual Meeting in April 1998, county voting delegates voted to dissolve affiliation with NAFCE because of differences in philosophy.
In 1995, KEHA was one of seven organizations that joined forces to form the National Volunteer Outreach Network (NVON). The organization incorporated the following year.
Since the establishment of NVON, the organization’s annual meeting has rotated among the member states. KEHA first hosted August 1-3, 2000 in Louisville. In 2007, KEHA hosted the NVON meeting July 19-21 in Lexington. The 2013 NVON meeting was held in Frankfort, KY July 16-18.
The 2021 NVON meeting was held July 20-22 in Owensboro, KY. NVON was grateful to hold an in-person meeting after the COVID-19 pandemic led to a cancellation in 2020. KEHA leaders provided an engaging conference experience for all attendees.
In July 2005, Mabel Harned was elected Vice President of NVON. At the 2015 NVON meeting in Martinsburg, W.V., Linda Kaletch, a KEHA past president, was elected as the NVON president-elect. She served as president-elect in 2016 and as NVON president from 2017-2019. In addition, Rita Bloom, a Boyle County KEHA member, served as the NVON secretary from 2017 to 2019.
KEHA Ovarian Cancer Fund
In 1977, Virginia McCandless, KEHA Health Chairman 1976-79, initiated the Ovarian Cancer Fund. The goal of the KEHA Health Committee at that time was to raise $1 per member -- $31,000 -- to donate to research at the Albert B. Chandler Medical Center at the University of Kentucky. That goal was achieved in four years.
The Ovarian Cancer Project continues today, well beyond the initial goal. In May 2006, the total donated had reached $881,841.98. In May 2009, KEHA surpassed the $1,000,000 mark in giving to UK’s Ovarian Cancer Research Program. The milestone was celebrated at the 2009 KEHA State Meeting, with Mrs. Virginia McCandless’ five children in attendance.
KEHA continues to participate in and promote ovarian cancer screening at UK’s Markey Cancer Center and mobile screening sites around the state. As of spring 2017, the program has screened more than 50,000 women at no charge, and more than 100 women, including the 2016-2017 KEHA President Mary Margaret Krahulec, had their lives extended because of the early, noninvasive, detection process.
In 2017, KEHA celebrated 40 years of support for ovarian cancer outreach, screening, and research. Total contributions at that time exceeded $1.39 million.
In September 2021, KEHA leaders were invited to be part of a special University of Kentucky event celebrating the Markey Cancer Center’s Ovarian Cancer Research and Screening program. KEHA was recognized for more than four decades of support for the program. As of May 2022, KEHA’s total contributions exceeded $1.58 million.