As teacher and principal of Talatha School in Aiken County in 1910, Marie Cromer Seigler formed one of the nation’s first Girls’ Tomato Clubs. Her work caught the eye of Seaman Knapp at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who summoned her to Washington. There she laid the groundwork for national programs to help farm families preserve food safely and profitably.
Her idea spread across the country and, with similar Boys’ Corn Clubs, became a model for the national 4-H Clubs and Extension Service educational demonstrations. By 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower honored Seigler for her role as a founder of 4-H Clubs.
As one of the first female county home demonstration agents in South Carolina, Seigler would later say, “I made up my mind I was going to do something for country girls.” She did so with gusto: By 1913, 20,060 girls were enrolled in canning clubs in 15 Southern states. Seigler would write that year, “The 4,202 girls who sent in reports put up 1,032,115 cans of tomatoes and 522,147 cans of other products worth $180,420.05.”
With the support of her husband, Aiken School Superintendent Cecil Seigler, her novel teaching methods entered the school system as well with the establishment of home economics classes.