(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved. Contact us for information about using this image.
Processing milk into butter and cheese was one way of preserving dairy products before refrigeration. The fat in the cream coalesced into butter as it was agitated, or "churned". The thin buttermilk left behind was washed out before the butter was carefully packed away. New England farm women played a vital economic role in the 19th century by producing surplus butter and cheese to sell at the local store. The storekeeper in turn sold large quantities of this locally produced butter and cheese to traders who shipped it as far away as the West Indies. The Allen sisters of Deerfield, Massachusetts, sought to evoke an earlier era when they posed this young woman churning butter with a cat eagerly lapping up the cream spilling on the floor.