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Women Behind the Plow

Women Behind the Plow honors the contributions of the women who worked in fields, raised families and live on farms in a time before electricity. The stories are heartwarming and humorous. Combined with the photos, these women paint a picture of life before the internet, cell phones and even electric lights. Imaine working on a farm without lights, good roads, big box stores and a dozen children. 


The women featured in the book who live in Emmons, Logan, and McIntosh counties, south central North Dakota, in the heart of German-Russian Country, include: Helen (Iszler) Frisch, Mary Ann (Were) Lehr, Alice (Rohrich) Kramer, Mary Ann (Schumacher) Gefroh, Violet (Eiseman) Diegel, Arlene (Wagner) Kramer, Irene (Mastel) Brindle, Rosina (Kemmet) Thurn, Frieda (Thurn) Ketterling, Alice (Woehl) Buerkley, Elizabeth Gross, Lorraine (Meidinger) Kaseman, Lillian (Schwind) Sayler, Ida (Schilling) Meidinger, Trieda (Stroller) Grenz, Eldena (Becker) Rau, Eva (Fuhrer) Schmidt, Christina (Kagle) Wagner, Christina (Werner) Sayler, and Eleanor (Kautz) Plater.

The accompanying 60-minute documentary is based in part on the book, and is the 10th in the Germans from Russia series of award-winning documentaries produced by Prairie Public and the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.

Production funding for Women Behind the Plow was provided by the Tri-County Tourism Alliance, NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, McIntosh County Bank, the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, the Opp-Mertz Families, and the members of Prairie Public.

"Women Behind the Plow celebrates the beauty, perseverance and family life of these prairie women in Emmons, Logan and McIntosh counties. As daughters of Germans from Russia immigrants to America, they share the historic traits of their ancestors – loving family, hard work and Christian faith. This impressive new book is a living tribute to these mothers and grandmothers who stand tall as our unsung heroes in our Germans from Russia community on the plains of the Dakotas. The Tri-County Tourism Alliance has published a lasting tribute to these wonderful women and their legacy for their families and to their rural communities.” - Michael M. Miller, Director, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries


Book Details:

Written and edited by Sue B. Balcom

Published by the Tri-County Tourism Alliance

Hardcover, 12"x12"

146 Pages, Full Color

Documentary Details:

Produced by Prairie Public
60 Minutes, DVD

Click the button below to order online from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.


Exhibit & Photo Exhibit Booklet

In addition to the hardcover book, the Tri-County Tourism Alliance also created a traveling exhibit by the same name, Women Behind the Plow. You can view photos of the exhibit here. An accompanying exhibit booklet titled Women Behind the Plow: Photo Exhibit Booklet, is also available for purchase from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. The photo exhibit catalog features the women interviewed by Sue Balcom in the book of the same name, and additional women interviewed for the Prairie Public Broadcasting documentary.

Esther (Mertz) Opp, grew up on a farm near Dawson, ND, writes: “During threshing, we had big meals at the house, usually around 12 people to feed. The menu was often spring fryers, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, tomatoes, beans, glorified rice, pickles, homemade bread and pies. Dad plowed the garden with horse and single plow. We hand seeded all the vegetables. We picked the produce and preserved by mostly canning. It was a chore when the flies were really bad and the heat. We always milked by hand and washed up the pails and separator as well as feeding the calves every morning and night.”



Published by the Tri-County Tourism Alliance

Softcover, coil bound

73 Pages, Full Color

Click the button below to order online from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.

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