Extension Service Review article

Dublin Core


Article from the Extension Service Review about the retirement of home demonstration agent Alice Carter Oliver.




Oliver, George H.; Home demonstration work; African American women; Mississippi--History.

Text Item Type Metadata


Alice Oliver Retires
May M. Cresswell
State Home Demonstration Agent, Mississippi

ALICE CARTER OLIVER, district agent in charge of Negro home demonstration work, 1917 to 1950, is retiring this year. She was the first Negro home demonstration agent in Mississippi. Her first salary was $1 per year, and her first task was to organize groups of women and girls to study better homemaking practices in Coahoma County. This was in 1917. Less than a year later, Alice was placed in charge of organizing home demonstration work for Negro women and girls in the counties of northwest Mississippi. Her work was so successful there that, as provision was made for the expansion of extension work, Alice was named district agent in charge of Negro home demonstration work in Mississippi.

On March 1, 1946, when the number of counties employing Negro home demonstration agents had grown to 50, the second district agent was appointed. This district agent, Daisy M. Lewis, was given supervision of half the counties; and, like other Mississippi home demonstration agents, she had been selected and trained by Alice Carter Oliver.

The career of Alice Carter Oliver in extension work has been unique and her service outstanding. She was born in Frankfort, Ky., in 1887, the youngest child of Mose and Lucy Carter. She attended Greenhill public school in Frankfort and Kentucky State College. Later she took advance courses at Cheyney Training School in Pennsylvania and at the University of Illinois. Alice taught for 6 years in the schools of Frankfort, coming to Sunflower County in 1910 where she engaged in social service work with the Negro people at Stephensville. In 1911 she married George H. Oliver, superintendent of Negro schools in Clarksdale. For a while Alice served as supervisor of home economics under the Jeanes Fund and for several years taught in the Negro schools of Clarksdale.

George and Alice Oliver were highly respected by both white people and Negroes in the county and the surrounding Delta. They were leaders among the Negroes and had the confidence of the white citizens of that area. Having observed the work of white home demonstration agents and realizing that her own people might improve their living conditions through work of this kind, Alice Carter, in 1917, applied to the director of extension, E. R. Lloyd, through Susie V. Powell, State home demonstration agent, for permission to organize groups of rural Negro women and girls in agricultural and home-making projects. Alice's first compensation was $1 per year, with the use of the franking privilege. Her first groups were organized in Coahoma County.

She found that the white planters readily understood the needs of the Negro families and, for the most part, were in sympathy with her efforts. Near the end of her first year, Alice's efficient service was recognized. She was given a salary and the title of district agent in charge of Negro home demonstration work. Her district consisted of 17 counties in north Mississippi.

Alice visited boards of supervisors and told them of her work and of the needs of her people. In many instances she was able to convince them that the services of a Negro home demonstration agent would be a valuable asset to the county. When asked how she, an unknown Negro worker, managed to get an audience with these boards, Alice said: "Many times I got in through the front door of the board room by seeing a supervisor's wife or some other influential white lady at the back door. Sometimes she would put on her hat and go with me to meet the board."

When Alice accepted the dollar-a-year job in 1917, she was the lone Negro home demonstration agent in Mississippi. This year, as she now retires, there are full-time Negro home demonstration agents in 54 counties, working with 21, 121 4-H Club girls and as many adult women. These women and girls are striving to improve their homes and the family's standard of living through the adoption of better practices in homemaking, gardening, poultry raising, and marketing. They are learning the importance of sanitation, of healthful living, and of good family and community and and race relationships. Most of the 54 home demonstration agents are college graduates, trained in home economics. Some of the older ones who do not have their degrees have, nevertheless, had special training courses in home economics and are strengthened by years of successful work in the field and under the supervision of Alice Carter Oliver.

Alice's health has failed now so that she must live quietly, giving up the hard travel schedules which took her into the highways and byways of Mississippi. She retires with the respect and affection not only of all the Negro extension workers but of the entire extension staff who know her and have seen her work. Her work has been so outstanding that often she was called on to go to other States to tell about the progress of Negro extension work in her State. Alice will be missed, but she leaves behind her a sound organization and a staff of trained conscientious workers who have the interest of the Negro people at heart.

In a farewell letter to the State office, Alice expresses her gratitude and her affection for her white coworkers in the Extension Service. She writes: "It has been a privilege to work with you, and I shall always be grateful for the kindness you have shown me and the support you have given me in my work." "Please, Ma'm," Alice adds, "call on me if I can ever be of service in any way."

Alice's retirement marks the close of a useful career. She served with humility but with dignity at all times. Her life has been an inspiration to thousands of her own race and to us, her coworkers who have watched her tireless efforts, her enthusiasm, and her loyalty to her people and to her work.




Creswell, May, “Extension Service Review article,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed September 23, 2023, https://msstate-exhibits.libraryhost.com/items/show/1342.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.

Transcribe This Item

  1. aliceoliver.PNG