Keepin’ This Little Town Going: Gender and Volunteerism in Rural America
Past studies have shown that women's volunteer work benefits communities but that women themselves tend to minimize their efforts. Most of these studies, however, have been limited to women volunteering in suburban and urban contexts. Drawing on a study of women volunteers in rural Iowa, the authors find that women frame their volunteer experiences in three ways: (1) as an expression of their maternal nature, (2) as a way to socialize, and (3) as a contribution to the local economy. The authors' findings depart from past research in that the women in their sample do not downplay the importance of their volunteer work; rather, they recognize the importance of their unpaid labor for the social and economic vitality of the community. The authors argue this recognition stems from the particular context in which their volunteerism takes place, namely, in a devastated rural economy in which future economic potential rests on women's hospitality work.
Peggy Petrzelka and Susan Mannon. 2006. “Keepin’ This Little Town Going: Gender and Volunteerism in Rural America.” Gender and Society. Vol. 20, No. 2:236-258.