Domestic Science in the Progressive Era

In 1915, Mary Edith Radigan (standing, fifth from left) and classmates in the seventh-grade home economics class at St. James Elementary School, Bay City, pose near modern gas burners. The girls wear uniforms that include pinafores and various-style caps resembling those of nurses, nannies, or lab technicians. Their first cooking lesson was making mayonnaise.

The photo was taken prior to America’s entry into World War I at the height of the Progressive Era, a period of rapid urbanization and industrialization. Management by scientific method had become important—and women’s status was changing rapidly. Home economics classes then taught scientific-type skills, including food preparation, nutrition, and food storage safety, and they also helped girls prepare for emerging career opportunities.

In Linoleum, Better Babies & The Modern Farm Woman 1890-1930 (1995), author Marilyn Irvin Holt explains that this type of Progressive Era photo offers confirmation “that the girls had been influenced by the scientific approach to homemaking duties” and that they were prepared for “their work in a laboratory—the home.”

By the early 20th century, home economics was taught in elementary, middle, and high schools, and an increasing number of land-grant colleges started offering “domestic science” home economics programs at some campuses. This enabled women to study for professions in areas such as extension service, state and federal governments, industry, hospitals, restaurants, and hotels.

“Home economics” classes declined in the late 1950s to early 1960s, as the teaching of health and hygiene principles popularized and as women’s economic and social roles changed. Departments and colleges changed “home economic” names and content in varying ways. The American Home Economic Association (est. 1909) was renamed the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences in 1994. Photo courtesy of Janice Sass, Bay County.


In 1915, Mary Edith Radigan (standing, fifth from left) and classmates in the seventh-grade home economics class at St. James Elementary School, Bay City, pose near modern gas burners. The girls wear uniforms that include pinafores and various-style caps resembling those of nurses, nannies, or lab technicians. Their first cooking lesson was making mayonnaise.

The photo was taken prior to America’s entry into World War I at the height of the Progressive Era, a period of rapid urbanization and industrialization. Management by scientific method had become important—and women’s status was changing rapidly. Home economics classes then taught scientific-type skills, including food preparation, nutrition, and food storage safety, and they also helped girls prepare for emerging career opportunities.

In Linoleum, Better Babies & The Modern Farm Woman 1890-1930 (1995), author Marilyn Irvin Holt explains that this type of Progressive Era photo offers confirmation “that the girls had been influenced by the scientific approach to homemaking duties” and that they were prepared for “their work in a laboratory—the home.”

By the early 20th century, home economics was taught in elementary, middle, and high schools, and an increasing number of land-grant colleges started offering “domestic science” home economics programs at some campuses. This enabled women to study for professions in areas such as extension service, state and federal governments, industry, hospitals, restaurants, and hotels.

“Home economics” classes declined in the late 1950s to early 1960s, as the teaching of health and hygiene principles popularized and as women’s economic and social roles changed. Departments and colleges changed “home economic” names and content in varying ways. The American Home Economic Association (est. 1909) was renamed the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences in 1994. Photo courtesy of Janice Sass, Bay County.

Related

Man rubbing his eyesMan rubbing his eyes

Digital Eyestrain and Ways to Reduce It

With most people working from home, there are increasing complaints about digital eye strain.

Spreading Joy Year Round

Billed as the world’s largest Christmas store, the trip to Bronner’s has become a family tradition for many guests lo…

Helping People, Helping Homes

The items offered through the Care Store provide residents with essentials not covered by government assistance progr…

Best of Great Lakes Bay

We asked our readers in a social media poll for their thoughts on the holiday food traditions they can’t live without.
Fashion for the seasonFashion for the season

Nothing Off Limits

All decades have been called into action and are ready to serve a look back through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Connect

Contact

517.203.3333

221 W. Saginaw St.
Lansing MI, 48933

All Rights Reserved 517 Business and Lifestyle Magazine. Website designed and developed by M3 Group