Golden Girls: Farm Women Reflect on a Century of Change

Posted: February 10, 2021

DeKalb County Farm Bureau features three of its longtime members, farm women, who reflect on a century of changes on their family farms and in our country. Jeanne Pritchard, Florence Hipple, and Gladys Schnorr share their farm stories.

These farm women reflect on farming, family and faith in their golden years.

Imagine having no electricity or indoor plumbing. No air conditioning or central heat. No television or radio. Life on the farm in the 1920s and 1930s was challenging. Modern conveniences and technology had not yet come to rural America.

Despite the lack of modernization, farm families were self-sufficient. They grew their own food including meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables. They heated their homes with corn cobs, wood or coal. They had to hand-carry water to the house for cooking and bathing. Farming was hard work, with long days and little money. Every member of the family had chores – milking cows, harnessing horses, gathering eggs, cleaning the outhouse, washing clothes, cooking and more.

Jeanne Dolder Pritchard

Being outdoors practically every day is where Jeanne Dolder Pritchard liked to be. The farm woman loved country living and being close to nature and God.

Born at home on her parent’s farm outside of Hinckley, Jan. 26, 1920, Jeanne Alma Dolder was the eldest child of Albert and Alma Dolder.

Farm Work and Housework Were Daily Chores

In their youth Jeanne and her brother, Albert, Jr. “Bud” helped on the family farm. Bud generally helped his dad and their hired man while Jeanne had her own set of farm chores.

Jeanne Pritchard gave floral arranging programs for Home Extension in 1960. She went to floral school in Chicago and then worked at floral shops while she farmed with her husband, Earl.

“I was assigned to bring the cows in from the field to be milked, feed them and clean the stalls. I also took care of the chickens and gathered eggs,” said Jeanne.

As a young farm girl, Jeanne remembers threshing time and feeding the large crew. “Several neighbors exchanged help and I would assist mother by preparing meals, and cleaning up after dinner and supper.”

“Housework was hard, because we made everything,” said Jeanne. She helped with churning butter, canning and baking, and gathering honey from their beehives.

The Pritchard’s bought their farm northeast of Hinckley in 1947. It’s called Tannenbaum Manor based on the hundreds of evergreens on their farmstead.

Raising livestock, farm families like the Dolders had their own meat. “We butchered a steer and a few hogs every year. I helped render the lard, cut the meat, and make sausage,” Jeanne explained.

The farm where Jeanne grew up was called Squaw Grove Place because it was where the first surveyors saw an Indian village in the woods with just squaws present at the time.

In her youth she remembers The Great Depression. “Mother made clothes for my brother and me from cloth sacks of feed we bought for the animals. We never went hungry, like some folks, since we had a big garden, fruit trees, meat and milk.”

For entertainment her family enjoyed music listening to the radio and the WLS Barn Dance.

Bud and Jeanne played in the school band. “We would play at the band stand by the community building on Wednesday nights. On Saturday nights we enjoyed seeing movies on a large white sheet strung up in the park.”

Jeanne attended Hinckley schools, graduating in 1938 with a class of 26. Living about a mile from town, her dad would give her a ride to school as he delivered their milk to the Hinckley Milk Plant. Her grandparents, the Hages, lived across the street from school which was convenient for visiting them and with inclement weather she would spend the night there.

On Aug. 20, 1941, Jeanne married Earl Pritchard. They lived with Earl’s parents, Oliver and Erma, for a brief time on the Pritchard Farm north of Hinckley.

Earl and Jeanne Pritchard were married for 31 years. They kept busy with their dairy and grain farm in rural Maple Park.

The newly married couple farmed with Oliver and Erma until they bought a 200-acre farm adjoining the home farm in 1946. They named their farm on Perry Road, Tannenbaum Manor, based on the hundreds of evergreens they planted on the farmstead.

As a young farm woman Jeanne worked on the farm with her husband Earl and in the home raising their two sons, Donald and Robert. As the boys were finishing high school, she attended the American Floral Art School in Chicago and then worked at floral shops in DeKalb and Sandwich.

 “I helped Earl with the harvests and as he needed help with the crops. I continued to tend the gardens and flowers while also working at the florists,” said Jeanne.

Once their sons graduated from the University of Illinois, the Pritchard’s sold the dairy and began to travel more.

After 31 years of marriage, Earl died unexpectedly in 1972, at the age of 52. For a few years Jeanne rented their farm until Bob returned to run the farm. “I helped Bob with planting, harvest and of course offered my experience from farming with Earl,” Jeanne said. In later years Bob and his son, Greg, operated the farm.

Jeanne is proud of her farm family heritage. The Dolder and Pritchard families have been farming since 1849. One farm has been in the family for 172 years and another for 117 years. Her grandson is the seventh generation of farmers in DeKalb County.

She Was Happiest Tending to Her Flowers and Garden

For 73 years, Jeanne lived and worked on her family farm, and especially enjoyed caring for her flowers and garden.

“I was happiest when I could dig in the dirt, weed my flowers and admire the beauty of nature,” said Jeanne. She was known for having worn out knees in her blue jeans from kneeling in her gardens.

“I found comfort in life by watching God’s plants, birds and animals. It was a privilege to tend His flowers and garden.”

Her family and friends also appreciated and admired Jeanne’s beautiful flowers and weed-free gardens in their visits to her farm.

For Jeanne’s 100th Birthday the family organized a celebration at their church. Shown are (from left) Don, Bob, Greg, Scott, Becky, Mark and Mary with Jeanne.

As she looks back on her farm life Jeanne notes how different things are today. “I grew up in an era where 80 to 160 acres would produce a good living for a family. Now farmers need thousands of acres.”

“Everything is bigger today – the farms, the equipment, the stores,” noted Jeanne. “I remember going to the local grocery store where I could scoop nuts, sugar and candy, dried fruit and lots of other things out of a barrel for 10 cents a pound.”

Jeanne has reached major milestones which have been celebrated with family and friends. For her 75th Birthday her sons paid a surprise visit to see her in Florida. On her 87th Birthday she went for a hot air balloon ride with her son, Don, and his wife, Patti, in North Carolina. For her 100th Birthday, the family organized a celebration at their church in Hinckley.

Proud of her family, the Pritchard bunch has grown to include two sons, five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

So what keeps this 101-year-old going? “Each day is like the next. I enjoy reading the Bible and remembering the friends and events I’ve had.”

Now living in DeKalb, Jeanne maintains that “life has been good.” Working outdoors most of her life and her daily walk with the Lord have kept her gentle spirit going. “I know God is in control and despite all the bad (in our world), love will win in the end.”

Florence Owen Hipple

World War I had ended but the Spanish Flu Pandemic was in its second year. Florence Mabel Owen was born during the pandemic on March 13, 1919 at home in Wayne, Illinois.

Growing up primarily in Northern Illinois, Florence moved a dozen times, from farm to farm with her family. Her father, John Owen from Wales, was a hired hand and a tenant farmer, which meant he grew crops and raised livestock for several different owners of farmland. Farm changes occurred in March so tenant farmers, who didn’t own their own farm, would move in the spring.

“Dad was always looking for better farms to rent,” said Florence. “We moved a lot during my childhood.”

With all of their moves her family had to adjust to different farm houses, some better than others. In the 1920s and 30s most farm houses didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity.

The Early Years Without Plumbing and Electricity

Florence and her two siblings, Agnes and Emery, helped pump water from the well and carry it into the house for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing clothes. They also brought in corn cobs or wood to heat the cook stove and heat stove.

The Owen children helped raise sheep on their farm. Shown are Agnes, Florence and Emery in 1924.

The children helped their father and mother with both household and livestock chores. “We milked cows, raised chickens, cattle, sheep and pigs and harnessed horses,” explained Florence. Being the youngest, Florence admitted that her older brother and sister did most of the farm chores.

Florence liked being in the house more than her siblings to help her mother, Mabel. She tells the story of when her sister was doing dishes and being infuriated with Florence for not helping, Agnes threw the dishwater out the window on her and her dog!

Florence’s father always gave her a bob haircut. Here, she is 6 years old, in 1925.

Farm families marked each day with a task. Monday was wash day, Tuesday ironing, Wednesday mending, Thursday shopping, Friday and Saturday cleaning and baking, and Sunday was church.

On wash days, Florence would help her mother get laundry done before school. “We had a lever on the tub but had to agitate the wash by hand. Then we put all the clothes through the wringer. Later Dad put a motor on the wringer.”

Because they didn’t have “running water” until she was a teenager, Florence recalls their family using outhouses with pages from a Sears catalog sufficing for toilet paper. “It was fun to look at the catalogs out there…and stay as long as you could to get out of doing dishes!”

Threshing oats, Mabel ran the binder machine and John Owen operated the steel-wheel tractor. Also shown is Florence in 1928.

Once a week the Owens would take a bath close to the heat stove to stay warm. “We had a big round galvanized tub and the whole family took turns taking a bath in the same water. The water got pretty cold before everyone was bathed. Then we would get clean underwear for the week. We washed our hair at the kitchen sink with regular bar soap,” explained Florence.

She remembers that the family always ate together, three set times for the three meals. To this day the kitchen table is her favorite place in the home.  “All the meals were big, but the biggest was at noon,” noted Florence. “The folks would butcher their own meat – chicken, pigs, sheep, geese and duck.”

As far as her upbringing, she explained that her parents were “strict” and she was raised in a Christian home. “Mother knew the 10 commandments and lived by them. Dad sang old hymns. Grandpa read the Bible three times through.”

On Sundays her family would travel east to visit relatives. “We just showed up and hoped they were home,” said Florence. Their Sunday drives typically would include a home-cooked meal and some family fun.

For pleasure, Florence liked to play with her dog and read the newspaper and Sunday School papers, often times by the light of the kerosene lamp.

As the Owen family moved from farm to farm, Florence had a challenging time establishing relationships at mostly one-room country schools. “Just about the time I became acquainted with other children, we would move. That was hard for me as a shy farm girl.”

The schools were located one or two miles from the farmstead but regardless they walked to school almost every weekday.

In 1932 their family moved to Waterman, living on a couple different farms located south and north of town. Florence went all four years to Waterman High School and graduated in 1936.

She began dating Edgar “Junior” Hipple after high school. Both of them were working for the Johnsons – Junior was hauling cattle for Paul Johnson and Florence helped Olive Johnson with household work and the children. At the same time Florence was also working at DeKalb Ag sorting seed corn in Waterman and Junior was working on his father’s farm.

Junior and Florence Hipple were married August 13, 1941 at the Waterman Presbyterian Church. They celebrated their 60th Anniversary (right) in 2001.

Florence married Junior Hipple in 1941. They moved to the Hipple Farm on Rt. 23, southeast of Waterman, to live in the big white farmhouse which Junior’s father had built in 1904. While Junior tended to the farm Florence handled the housework.

Modern Conveniences Make Housework Easier

The Hipple Farm dates back to 1870 to ancestors John and Lucy Hipple. They had four sons and the youngest, Edgar, would eventually live on and run the 160-acre home farm. Edgar was one of the founding members of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau and the DeKalb Agricultural Association serving on both boards in the early days of the organizations.

Florence and Junior raised crops and livestock on the Hipple Farm for 30 years of their married life with help from their children Judy and Jerry. Jerry and his son, Adam, now operate the farm. Adam is the fifth generation to farm and lives with his family in the farmhouse.

The Hipple Farm dates back to 1870, a sesquicentennial farm. This picture shows the farmstead in 1971, the last year that Florence and Junior lived there. Now their grandson, the 5th generation of Hipples, lives and farms there southeast of Waterman.

Looking back on her farm life, Florence appreciated the modern conveniences which came during her marriage, especially her washer and dryer. “It’s hard to imagine not having these now,” she said. “All of these conveniences have made life easier.”

In 1971 Florence and Junior moved to the north side of town. They had been married for 62 years when Junior died in 2003.

Florence has spent the last 50 years living comfortably in her home in town with family and friends nearby.

The Hipple family: Florence (seated) is shown with her adult children Jerry (Sue) and Judy. Jerry and Sue’s children and grandchildren are also pictured. Florence has two children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

“I had a lot of fun in my life. I have a good family. And I have nothing to complain about,” said the almost 102-year-old. “Perhaps I’m still here to enjoy my great-granddaughter, Audrey.”

Once a week Florence (GG) sees Audrey and they enjoy each other’s company doing simple things. Daughter-in-law Sue brings them together for the day. “I call them my bookends – 100 years apart. They play together, we laugh a lot, and it has helped us get through the Covid pandemic,” said Sue.

Because of the pandemic, Florence regrets she is unable to attend the Presbyterian Church in town. She’s been a faithful member and servant there for over 80 years. One of her favorite scriptures is Psalm 23.

She enjoys reading the Bible, wholesome books and the newspaper regularly to pass the time.

To celebrate her 100th Birthday her family arranged an open house at the Waterman Community Building. She was surrounded by family and friends including her friend of 85 years – Violet Suddeth Challand. The two talk on the telephone each Sunday to check on one another and see what’s new. “Sometimes we don’t say much but it’s comforting just to hear her voice,” said Florence.

Florence cherishes her life and doesn’t take things for granted – especially all the changes which have occurred during her lifetime.

She sums up her passion for life with her favorite quote: “One day at a time, this is enough. Do not look back and grieve for the past, for it is gone. And do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that you will find it worth remembering.” Ida Scott Taylor

Gladys Holle Schnorr

Hard work didn’t bother Gladys Schnorr one bit. Her work ethic throughout her farm life propelled her into the golden years.

Born Aug. 19, 1920, Gladys Catherine Holle was the second child and only girl born to Gertrude and George Holle in Lee. As a young farm girl she worked alongside her parents and siblings on the farm and in their home.

Farms in the 1920s were small and diversified then, with a variety of livestock and crops that were used to feed the family and to sell at market.

Fieldwork and Livestock Chores Were Hard Work

Gladys helped with the farm chores by milking cows, feeding pigs and chickens. Oftentimes she worked with her older brother, Darrel. Her younger brothers, Glenn and Wilbur, were eight to 10 years her junior so it was later when they would do farm chores.

As a young farm girl, she remembers picking field corn by hand with a hook and then throwing ear after ear against the bangboard in the wagon. “I always had the front row in picking corn. We picked in the morning and afternoon doing a few acres each day in the fall. Then we stored the corn in the crib. It was hard work,” said Gladys.

What she looked forward to was taking the corn to the nearby elevator and watching the wagon be hoisted up to unload the corn. “I remember being scared as the wagon was raised up. But I went because I would get a piece of candy. What you do for a piece of candy (in those days).”

Gladys Holle (right) is pictured with her high school friend Lucille Espe (left) in 1941 at a bridal shower she hosted for Gladys.

Gladys also helped put up hay. One story she recalls: “There was a storm coming so Dad woke me up in the middle of the night to put up a load of hay that was left outside. Dad set the forks in the square bales and I harnessed the horses and drove them, pulling the hayfork into the mow. We got the hay in the barn before the storm,” she said.

Since her father was a tenant farmer, the young farm family moved often. “Dad worked for different farmers in the Lee and Shabbona areas. So we moved around a lot to different farms,” recalls Gladys.

Their farm family had a large garden which was tended to mostly by her and her mother. Later Gladys would also have a big garden and raise all sorts of vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beets, tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers. The family canned many of the vegetables and stored them in the cellar to preserve them.

“I wrote about working in my family’s garden for school. And based on my writing, my teacher could tell I truly worked hard in our garden,” stated Gladys.

Gladys received this doll from her paternal grandmother.  She is shown with her brother, Darrel, in 1925. (Lower right) Gladys still has her doll, 96 years old.

The Holle family lived outside of Lee but went to town for groceries and other business. “All week I would think about going to town to get a treat. I usually got a glass of julep or a scoop of ice cream at the restaurant in Lee.”

Her school days started when she was five years old, going to the one-room country school on Houghtby Road. Next she went to the Lee Grade School in town. Lee High School was only for three years so she graduated from Lee and then finished her fourth year at Shabbona High School, graduating in 1937 at the age of 16.

After high school Gladys worked at the Wrigley’s grocery store in Lee. It was one of two grocery stores in town. She worked 70 hours a week and made $5. “With my first check I bought mother a new pair of shoes – hers were worn out,” Gladys said.

Gladys remembers that Sundays at the grocery store were busy because farmers would bring in eggs. She would candle the eggs. The grocery store is where she met Raymond Schnorr, a local farmer, who would come to the store to buy grapefruit.

Farm Family Works Together to Make Ends Meet

Ray and Gladys were married July 3, 1941 at St. James Catholic Church in Lee. Their wedding reception was held at the Schnorr Farm located 3.5 miles west of town. That’s where Ray’s parents, Joe and Katie, lived until they moved to Rochelle a couple years later. Ray and Gladys moved to the Schnorr Farm in 1943.

Ray and Gladys Schnorr were married July 3, 1941 at St. James Catholic Church in Lee.
Gladys and Ray farmed together for 51 years, (right) in 1987.

The Schnorr Farm dates back to the 1880s with the first ancestors being Wilhelm and Pauline Schnorr. Ray was the third generation to live and farm there. Their sons, Doug, and Dennis, were the fourth generation to farm the 240-acre home base.

Gladys remembers the farmhouse did not have indoor plumbing but instead used an outhouse and they carried water from the pump to the house. Within the first year Joe and Katie had indoor plumbing installed in the farmhouse as they realized how wonderful it was to have in their Rochelle home.

Raising their young family required Gladys to get some field work done early in the morning. “I would come in to make sure the kids got off to school and then I would return to the field,” she said.

The Schnorr Farm in 1955. The farm dates back to the 1880s with four generations of family members living and farming there.

Their children Gerry, Doug, Jan and Dennis helped on the farm and were active in school and sports activities. The children raised pigs and chickens as 4-H projects and had other projects.

Gladys recalls the time the pigs had gotten out of their pen one morning and the kids were helping to get them back. The school bus came and left without them. After the excitement that morning, the kids cleaned up and she took them to school. “I explained to the principal why they were late. Who could make that up,” asked Gladys.

Because Gladys and Ray Schnorr were buying the farm, “money was tight.” Their cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens and a big garden helped them be self-sustaining. They sold their livestock, crops and eggs for income. They butchered their own meat. “We pinched pennies when we had to.”

“I would sell eggs and dress chickens to help make ends meet,” said Gladys. “It was a lot of work for 25 cents a chicken. Times have changed!”

The Schnorrs raised plenty of potatoes through the years. Here Gladys and sons, Doug, and Dennis, have a wheelbarrow full in 1981.

In other farm stories, Gladys remembers some mean cows and roosters. She evaded a couple of the cows that charged her, because she was quick enough to get to safety. The roosters had a tendency to chase the kids. “Off to the swings they would run and jump up on them, and scream for help. I would run to their rescue and scare the rooster away. It would crow and puff its chest out being so proud.”

Gladys and Ray worked side-by-side on the farm throughout their married life. They were married for 51 years. Ray retired in the late 1980’s due to declining health and died in 1993. Dennis took over the farming (with Doug’s help), but retired in 2017 due to poor health; he died in 2019.

Looking back on farm days, Gladys said, “I didn’t mind the hard work. I didn’t know any different. Sure, we had some tough times but maybe it was for my good. Farm families are good workers.”

Her farm family has grown to include nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. One of her grandsons farms in Indiana and another one works for John Deere.

Gladys celebrated her 100th Birthday in Shabbona with 29 family members including her adult children Doug, Gerry and Jan. She also went kayaking at Lake Shabbona.

Gladys lived on the Schnorr Farm for 74 years. She moved to Shabbona in 2017 with her daughter, Jan. Her favorite pastimes are putting together jigsaw puzzles, watching “Judge Judy,” playing euchre and helping her daughter bake. Gladys is known for her delicious pies and crust. A family favorite is green tomato pie; she tweaked her mother-in-law’s recipe.

In her late 90’s, Gladys was still walking two miles a day and gardening when a hip issue forced her to slow down. In good weather she now likes to walk some in town with her daughter. 

For her 90th Birthday her family treated her to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field and dinner at Harry Caray’s Restaurant. On her 100th Birthday she had a drive-by party at Indian Creek High School where family and friends wished her well from their cars. And, she went kayaking at Lake Shabbona!

Now 100 ½ years, Gladys attributes her longevity to her lifestyle of being a farm woman and her faith. She has been a member of St. James Catholic Church in Lee for 80 years and attends weekday Mass while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.