Future Farmers of America, or the National FFA Organization as we now call it, was founded in 1928. However, it was 1969 before female students were allowed to join the national organization. For an organization that is now so inclusive, the delayed admittance comes as a shock for many. Even though it took time, the National FFA Organization is celebrating not only 50 years of female members in FFA, but also as leaders in the agricultural industry.
The original 1928 constitution for the Future Farmers of America said active membership would be open to “any student.” However in 1930, FFA delegates changed the FFA constitution to “any male students.” With that change, females were no longer allowed to participate on the national level. Although that didn’t stop females from participating on a local level. Some states had followed the original FFA constitution and allowed female participation to a certain extent.
It would take 30 years before the national organization would consider female members again. When the question was raised to allow women back into FFA, it wasn’t a popular opinion. Even though the ’60s were a time for change and acceptance, not everyone believed women should be a part of FFA on a national level.
Accepting female students into the national organization did not get much attention until 1964. The motion was brought up three times, once in 1964, again 1966, and then in 1968, and each time the motion was defeated.
Finally on October 15, 1969, the delegate from California moved and the Michigan delegate seconded to strike the word “male” from the FFA Constitution. The motion carried and was passed by only a two-vote margin. History had finally been made.
When FFA included women in its constitution, it was more than just allowing female students to participate in competitive events. It also recognized women’s role in agriculture on the farm, in the workplace, and gave hope to future generations.
Even after female students were officially allowed membership into the National FFA Organization, it took time to integrate the changes in some areas. Like any new law, it takes time, passion, and dedication to incorporate. Many women had to be brave and stay headstrong during the formative years. They paved a path for the many women who would follow in their footsteps.
So what do women bring to the table in FFA now? According to the National FFA Organization, “Nearly half of all FFA members are women, and females hold approximately 50 percent of state leadership positions.” A lot of good can happen in 50 years. As we celebrate the anniversary of women in FFA, let us not forget about the men who saw potential in female students and wanted to correct the mistakes of the past. Here’s to always changing agriculture environment!
Fun Facts from the FFA website:
- 2017 – Breanna Holbert from California is the first African-American female to be elected national FFA president.
- 2002 – Karlene Lindow was named the American Star Farmer. Her jacket now hangs in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
- 1982 – Jan Eberly from CA becomes the first female national FFA president.
- 1976 – Julie Smiley from Washington is elected as national FFA vice president, making her the first female to hold a national FFA office.
- 1973 – First American Farmer Degrees are handed out to female members.
- 1971 – Sharon Staley of the White River FFA Chapter in Washington models the first official girl’s FFA jacket.
- 1970 – Anita Decker and Patricia Krowicki became the first two female delegates to the national convention.
- 1969 – Female students are allowed to be members of the National FFA Organization.