Life at Four Corners
Religion, Gender, and Education in a German-Lutheran Community, 1868-1945
With a New Preface by the Author
Sales Date: November 30, 1992
244 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: November 1992
- Open access ebook available
- Published: November 1992
Defined less by geography than by demographic character, Block, Kansas, in many ways exemplifies the prevalent yet seldom-scrutinized ethnic, religion-based community of the rural midwest.
Physically small, the town sprang up around four corners formed by crossroads. Spiritually strong and cohesive, it became the educational and cultural center for generations of German-Lutheran families.
Block provided a religious and cultural oasis-a welcome transition for German-Lutheran immigrants faced with a new language and unfamiliar customs. Yet the tight bond between an ethnic society and a religion that shunned Americanism and the English language paradoxically slowed the transition and maintained a culturally isolated community well into the twentieth century.
In Life at Four Corners, Carol Coburn analyzes the powerful combination of those ethnic and religious institutions that effectively resisted assimilation for nearly 80 years only to succumb to the influences of the outside world during the 1930s and 1940s. Emphasizing the formal and informal education provided by the church, school, and family, she examines the total process of how values, identities, and all aspects of culture were transmitted from generation to generation.
"A remarkable study that pays equal note to the creative roles of women and the signs of faith and hope and love enacted in a harsh climate."—Christian Century
"An excellent interdisciplinary study of the transmission of education and culture across four generations. It includes something for historians with a variety of interests: ethnicity, education, immigration and assimilation, gender roles, rural life, religion, family life and fertility rates, nativism, and more."—American Historical Review
"Makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the place of gender in a patriarchal society and brings the study of rural community to a new level."—Western Historical Quarterly
"A first-rate contribution to the history of education, ethnicity, religion, women, and the family."—History of Education Quarterly
"A fascinating account of one community’s struggle with cohesion and assimilation [that raises] a number of provocative questions about the relative importance of religion, ethnicity, and gender in the making of American pluralism."—Kansas History
"Thanks to Coburn, the images of a vibrant, multifaceted community are brought back to life."—Kansas City Star
"Coburn has contributed to the field of German-American ethnic history, offering a point of comparison with other rural and urban studies, particularly regarding the family."—Great Plains Quarterly
"This volume enhances the available literature about American Lutheranism by its concentration on a single community and the detail that concentration allows. And it provides an instructive point of comparison with other communities in which ethnicity and religion played key roles."—Church History
"Community studies such as Coburn’s provide valuable insight into the historical reality and broad implications of “ordinary” lives. This well-researched and well-written study deserves wide readership."—Missouri Folklore Society
"Reconstructs with anthropological sensitivity the inner life of a rural ethnic community over four generations. its perspectives on gender are particularly rich and enlightening."—Walter D. Kamphoefner, author of The Westfalians
"This book is clearly and engagingly written. It opens a window on the inner life of an early rural settlement in Kansas and allows the reader to understand the values, fears, and beliefs of this important group of settlers. The author offers insight into the intersection of several variables, including gender, religion, and region."—Glenda Riley, author of The Female Frontier: A Comparative View of Women on the Prairie and the Plains
List of Maps and Illustrations
1. Community Overview
5. The Outside World
6. At War with Germany
Note on Sources