Guide to the Louisan E. Mamer Rural Electrification Administration Papers
NMAH.AC.0862
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0862
Creators:
Mamer, Louisan E., 1910-2005
Mamer, Stuart M.
Dates:
1927-2002
Languages:
English
Collection is in English.
Physical Description:
10.1 cubic feet
31 boxes, 1 oversized folder
Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
The Mamer collection includes a wide range of materials used to teach concepts and the usage of electricity to predominately rural audiences. Mamer kept many of her materials in labeled notebooks; other papers were filed loosely with no apparent order. The collection materials date pre-dominantly from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s. There are some materials from the late 1930s. There is only one item from 1927 and one from 1999.

Scope and Contents note
Scope and Contents note
The Mamer collection materials date pre-dominantly from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s. There are some materials from the late 1930s. There is only one item from 1927 and one from 1999. Many materials are undated. The collection includes a wide range of materials used to teach concepts and the usage of electricity to predominately rural audiences. Mamer kept many of her materials in labeled notebooks; other papers were filed loosely with no apparent order.
The arrangement is generally by type or purpose of document. Original order and subject headings have been maintained where it is readily apparent. Mamer filed some materials in broad subject categories, for instance L.P. Gas, Lighting and Electric Ranges; are in Series 1, Subseries 1.2. One of Mamer's systems of keeping notes for presentations was to type talking points on paper, and then cut them into strips, and file them in envelopes under broad categories. These may have been used during oral presentations as mnemonic devices or as simple maxims pertaining to the topic being discussed. (In an October 2004 phone interview Mamer could not recall their specific use.) These can be found in Series 1, Subseries 1.1. Many of the documents in this collection were originally printed on highly acidic paper and extreme care is recommended in handling them.

Arrangement note
Arrangement note
The collection is divided into three series. The arrangement is generally by type or purpose of document. Many materials are undated.
Series 1: Demonstration & Training Materials, 1932-2002
Subseries 1.1: Demonstrator Notes and Resources, 1936-1994
Subseries 1.2: Electrical Appliance and Subject Files, 1932-1952
Subseries 1.3: Cooperative Study Courses, 1938-1953
Subseries 1.4: Adviser Packets and Co-op Shop Paks, circa 1948-1974
Series 2: Publications, 1927-1999
Series 3: Photographs, Filmstrips, Slides and Vu-Graphs, 1943-1952, undated

Biographical/Historical note
Biographical/Historical note
Louisan E. Mamer (1910-2005) was born on August 28, 1910 to Louis H. and Anna Mary Elizabeth Mies Mamer. She graduated from the University of Illinois, College of Agriculture with an AB in 1931. Mamer begin her government career with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), moving to the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1935. The REA was one of President Franklin Roosevelt's programs described collectively as the New Deal. The REA's goal was to bring affordable electricity to rural America. Electrification brought prosperity and an elevated standard of living to rural areas, but initially there was a great deal of ignorance about electricity in its applications and uses. Mamer was hired by the REA as a Home Electrification Specialist, or "demonstrator," to educate people in the uses of electricity.
Mamer was based at the REA headquarters in Washington, DC but traveled extensively throughout the Midwest performing demonstrations of electrical appliances, planning and teaching "training schools" for rural electrical co-op advisors, demonstrators, and home economics teachers initially in the states of Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. This traveling show came to be known as the "electric circus." Her first show was in the Maquoketa Valley Rural Electric Co-op near Anamoso, Iowa. Mamer described the process in a 1975 interview: "We would usually move into a town over the weekend. Having made the move and set up the tents [two large circus tents] and gotten ready for the show during the daytime, say, on a Monday, that night we would have the home electrification specialist (which was my job) demonstrate lighting equipment. I believe the next morning we had a laundry equipment demonstration at about 10 a.m., and in the afternoon, we demonstrated small appliances and some kitchen and laundry planning along the way. The last evening, the home electrification specialist conducted a big cooking duel between two local men. That was a highlight of the whole program." [1]
The electric circus was discontinued in 1941, a victim of WWII gas shortages. Mamer continued educating rural America with the Electro-Economy Tour designed to help the war effort. This was also discontinued due to WWII shortages. After the war, Mamer began traveling and demonstrating again while also developing training courses for the REA and REA co-ops nationwide. Through her demonstrations and training materials, Mamer was not only teaching rural America in the uses of electricity but in a lifestyle reflecting the goals of the New Deal - a better life for average Americans. Mamer's largest audiences seem to have been rural housewives but men were included as well, especially in the "cooking duel". Mamer identified with these women and from her notes and interviews she seems to have firmly believed in her mission to better people's lives through electricity.
In a 1948 article for
Practical Home Economics
magazine, Mamer briefly described her background and work:
My background is rural; locale, southern Illinois. As I grew, 'college' like 'mama's bank account' was always with us, and we worked to get the money for it --selling pecan meats, mowing, raking, doing everything but plowing for the same pay as the hired men. Finally I had almost $1,000, a fashionable suntan, unfashionable broad shoulders and a "harrowing" walk that served me well in getting about at the University of Illinois.
That first year I planned to become a writer, but by my sophomore year I decided that I should learn something to write about. So I spent my last three years and four summers more becoming a home economist and satisfied my craving for writing on The Daily Illini and the Illinois Agriculturist, college sheets of which I was woman's editor.
My background was, as astrologers would put it, propitious to home economics. My mother had already mothered one family of seven brothers, and she operated on a big scale. We butchered; we churned; we canned; we baked bread; we had two acres of garden, fruit, chickens and a milk route. All this-sans electricity, sans running water.
When I started teaching, an all-electric foods laboratory was a rarity, but I got one and was very proud of it. I also got a great deal of experience which came in handy when I left teaching to take a job in Washington writing for NYA.
REA was so new then that home economics hadn't entered the picture, so I went in as a writer. In 1937, after a training period in TVA, REA sent me to Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska as a regional home economist. Except for being lent briefly to WPB I've been in REA ever since.
My secret ambition is to build a modern house; furnish it modern and Chinese; equip it all-electric and with a husband guaranteed not to wander; operate the whole arrangement at enough profit to provide myself with all the secretarial and other help I would like to have to do my job the way I would like to do it and write besides. [2]
Mamer married Arthur C. Hagen (1911-2000), an REA electrical engineer, on March 20, 1954. She devoted her working life to the REA retiring in 1981. Mamer died in Washington, DC in December 2005.
Footnotes
1. "Bringing Light to Rural America,"
Rural Cooperatives
magazine, March 1998.
2. "Methods of Teaching Home Use of Electricity," part 1 by Louisan E. Mamer,
Practical Home Economics
magazine, April and May 1948.
Sources
"Bringing Light to Rural America,"
Rural Cooperatives
magazine, March 1998. Campbell, Dan, "When the Lights Came On,"
Rural Cooperatives Magazine,
August 2000.
Troppa, Gina M., "The REA Lady --A Shining Example,"
Illinois Currents
, 2002

Administration
Processing Information note
Processed by Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., December 2004.
Author
Finding aid prepared by Franklin A. Robinson, Jr.
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Donated by Louisan E. Mamer to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian in June 2004.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation note
Louisan E. Mamer Rural Electrification Administration Papers, 1927-2002, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Conditions Governing Access note
Collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use note
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Related Archival Materials note
Materials in the Archives Center
Reddy Kilowatt Records (AC0913)

Accruals note
Accruals note
An addendum of approximately 1.5 cubic feet were added to this collection in February 2007 by Stephen M. Mamer, brother of Louisan E. Mamer.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Rural Electrification Administration. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tennessee Valley Authority. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Agriculture Department. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Articles Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cookbooks Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cookery Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence--20th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Electric apparatus and appliances Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Electric lighting Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Electric toasters Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Electricity Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Farms Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Home economics Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kitchen appliances Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kitchens Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Laundry Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lecture notes Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuals Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New Deal, 1933-1939 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Newsletters--20th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs--20th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Publications Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Recipes Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Refrigerators Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rural electrification Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Specifications Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Stoves Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Trade catalogs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C., 20013-7012
Phone: 202-633-3270
archivescenter@si.edu