Jamison focused her efforts on the school’s Home Economics Department until 1915 when she was given a leave of absence to accept a position as a home demonstration agent for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. This position grew out of the Smith-Lever Act, which had been established the previous year as a system of “cooperative extension services” to inform people about developments in home economics, agriculture, public policy, and other related topics. In her new position, Jamison formed rural women’s clubs to study foods and elevate knowledge of healthy diets, meal efficiency, and food conservation. She traveled to the most rural areas of the state, convincing women of the benefits of “simple home conveniences” such as fireless cookers, similar to a modern crock-pot. At the request of many of these women, she wrote several pamphlets including “Plans for Community Club Work in the Study in Foods and Household Conveniences,” which saw three printings. This government publication was distributed throughout the United States in addition to many foreign countries.
|Minnie Lou Jamison|
On April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany. The same year, Jamison was called back to the college to help with mobilizing the home front, the “second line of defense” of the War. At the suggestion of Herbert Hoover, who was then the national food administrator, Jamison taught a ten day course in food conservation at the college. She began to give similar presentations to women throughout the state. Jamison reached over 18,000 women with her 200 demonstrations. These classes included canning, meat substitutions, creating recipes for cold dishes and balanced meals, and demonstrations of drying fruits and vegetables. She designed a community food dryer for her demonstration classes, and then shared it with the Women’s Defense League of Guilford County. It was estimated that more than 1500 pounds of fruit and vegetables were conserved in the dryer.
|World War I Food Preservation|
|The Lady with the Powder-Puff Hair|
Jamison went into semi-retirement in 1936, but continued in a part-time capacity as the head of the Student’s Building and counselor of social activities. She became known affectionately to her students as “the lady with the powder-puff hair,” noting her beautiful white hair. She loved social activities and into her eighties Jamison attended all of the college dances in a simple black velvet dress. Always entertaining, as well as modest, Jamison joked that she was glad that she had an “average” mind so that when she began to lose it, it wouldn’t be so noticeable.
Jamison dedicated her entire life to service and to the school. To show its appreciation, in the spring of 1939, the college named a residence hall in her honor. That same year, the students dedicated the school’s yearbook, Pine Needles, to her. Minnie Lou Jamison died in January of 1948 at the age of eighty-one, and was memorialized for her kindness, her sense of humor, and her love of flowers and music. But perhaps her greatest contribution was her push for improvements and modernizations in rural North Carolina, her innovations in food conservation, and her work in mobilizing the state’s second line of defense during a war that was to end all wars.