Homer's painting cleverly refers to the rising American temperance movement, a crusade against drinking alcohol, by depicting a stout milkmaid pausing while a farmhand drinks from her ladle. Swaying under the weight of her pail and squinting into the sun, she presents the ideal of natural womanhood. Her powerful presence, marked by broad shoulders, muscular arms, and sunburned skin, counters the farmhand's relaxed stance and shaded face, visually reversing traditional gender roles. Far from flirting, the two figures awkwardly avoid each other's gaze, modeling rural wholesomeness and rectitude.
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