‘It’s Because of Her Success the Rest of the Hive Succeeds’: The American Honey Queen Program and Women’s Advocacy in Twentieth-Century Apiculture
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This study examines the foundational decades of the American Beekeeping Federation’s American Honey Queen Program from the 1950s through the 1990s. While women have played vital roles in American apiculture, their achievements are often absent from the histories of the industry. Similarly, rural and agricultural women’s experiences are frequently overlooked or misinterpreted in studies of twentieth-century feminism. The following project serves as a step towards restoring the unique voices of women in the beekeeping industry to these historiographical conversations. This work centers around oral history interviews with six women who participated in the American Honey Queen Program in the latter half of the twentieth century. The interviews were conducted remotely via Zoom in October 2020, and bolster Honey Queen stories recovered from newspapers, agricultural journals, and beekeeping association newsletters. These narrators’ memories reveal how women navigated gendered perceptions of pageantry and femininity to shape and push the boundaries of women’s authority in the beekeeping industry. Ultimately, the history of the American Honey Queen Program illuminates the ingenuity and agency of women in apiculture and demonstrates the fluidity of agricultural feminisms in the late twentieth century.