Jane Marie Pederson examines the social history of two neighbouring rural communities, Lincoln and Pigeon, in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin. Building upon Merle Curti's classic work of social history set in the same country, "The Making of an American Community", she shows how distinct local ethnic cultures "between memory and reality" were established as communities changed and settled over the course of a century. She demonstrates the dynamic process of change Lincoln and Pigeon experienced as each created its own distinct community and culture from a variety of sources. These rural ethnic cultures were sustained into the second half of the 20th century by rural women and men who actively shaped their own political economy, institutions, and mentality out of their memories of earlier traditions and from the opportunities and challenges of the rural American environment. Pederson pays particular attention to gender as a category of analysis, tracing the adaptation of traditional peasant courtship patterns and social rituals into the contemporary pattern of culture, work and community.