Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Kris Lawson

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert C. Childers

Third Advisor

Dr. Gary Wilson


The purpose of this study is to provide a historical analysis of American culture and society at the turn of the twentieth-century, challenging the conceptualization of social isolation, cultural subjectivity, and urban conflict of the rural Midwest. Detailed research utilizes a synthesized mixture of primary sources, contemporary to the Gilded Age, and a volume of scholastic analysis of Midwestern and American history to establish the significance of rural, Midwest communities in the development of social and cultural standards in the United States. A flipped historical focus shifts the rural Midwest from an urban periphery to the center and nexus of social and cultural exchange, development, and expression. Sources and scholarship on rural America highlight the voluntary participation in activities, opportunities, organizations, and behaviors demonstrate the reciprocal development of a national culture, standards, and ideologies. As active participants in a variety of social movements, economic practices, sponsored programs and policies, demographic and occupation shifts, rural Midwesterners were at the heart of prevailing cultural and social standards. The power of Midwestern voluntarism and rural acceptance, adaptation, and dissemination significant to the establishment of a national culture, social institutions and ideologies. The local and national associations, organizations, programs, and activities throughout American society at the turn of the twentieth century was a transfusion between the West and the East, both reflecting and contributing to a national cultural and social standards. Research shows there was not a prevailing urban-rural conflict in cultural development or social reform as some analysis has argued. The codependent relationship between national organizers and local participants challenges the misconception of Eastern or urban influences dictating Western or rural modernity, social reform, and cultural development. The shaping of American society has been a mutual cultural exchange between multiple centers of influence. The rural Midwest is a key component in the formation and expression of American institutions, ideologies, values, and practices.



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