If you grew up in the U.S., you might remember home economics class as the source of deflated muffins and horrifically distorted sewing projects. You might, like Jonah Hill’s character in Superbad, have thought of home ec as “a joke” that everyone takes “to get an A.” But it wasn’t always so—and, in fact, the field of home economics began as a surprisingly radical endeavor. This episode, we talk with Danielle Dreilinger, author of the new book The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live. How did women a century ago use home economics as a backdoor to build careers as scientists? How did home ec trailblazers electrify rural towns, design the modern kitchen, and create the first nutritional guidelines? And what does Sputnik have to do with the field's decline? Can today's home ec once again meet the lofty goals set by its founders?
"Students in home economics showing girls learning cooking skills," from the University of Washington Library Special Collections
Danielle Dreilinger is an independent journalist and author of The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live. She is a former New Orleans Times-Picayune education reporter and a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow. Danielle was named best features writer by the Louisiana Press Association in 2017.
"Senior students in dietetics course for nurses in 1918. The instructor, Helen Monsch, is second from left." From Cornell's extensive collection of Home Ecology Historical Photographs.