By 1925—after women were allowed membership into the Essex Agricultural Society—we finally see all of these disparate areas of competition, including canning, fancy work, and food, organized under a full-fledged Women’s Department led by an all-female committee and chairperson.
The influence of women on the Fair, however, hasn’t been limited to the domestic arena. Go back in time, for example, to 1839 and consider Elizabeth Parker of East Bradford, Massachusetts. Parker entered her rye crop into the Fair at a time when agricultural contests were dominated by men. She described in detail how she cultivated and grew rye, and closed her writings with this directive: “Gentlemen, if you think this worthy of a place in your Essex Agricultural Society’s Transactions, make use of it; if not, pass it by.” Clearly, they did think it worthy; the Society preserved for posterity Ms. Parker’s entry into the boy’s club.