The Secret History of Home Economics

How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live

The surprising, often fiercely feminist, always fascinating, yet barely known, history of home economics.

The term “home economics” may conjure traumatic memories of lopsided hand-sewn pillows or sunken muffins. But common conception obscures the story of the revolutionary science of better living. The field exploded opportunities for women in the twentieth century by reducing domestic work and providing jobs as professors, engineers, chemists, and businesspeople. And it has something to teach us today.

In the surprising, often fiercely feminist and always fascinating The Secret History of Home Economics, Danielle Dreilinger traces the field’s history from Black colleges to Eleanor Roosevelt to Okinawa, from a Betty Crocker brigade to DIY techies. These women―and they were mostly women―became chemists and marketers, studied nutrition, health, and exercise, tested parachutes, created astronaut food, and took bold steps in childhood development and education.

Home economics followed the currents of American culture even as it shaped them. Dreilinger brings forward the racism within the movement along with the strides taken by women of color who were influential leaders and innovators. She also looks at the personal lives of home economics’ women, as they chose to be single, share lives with other women, or try for egalitarian marriages.

This groundbreaking and engaging history restores a denigrated subject to its rightful importance, as it reminds us that everyone should learn how to cook a meal, balance their account, and fight for a better world.16 pages of illustrations

Net Galley Book Review :

I loved this book was eye opening . I’m a college graduate of Home Ec and didnt know this history of the course. I never would have guessed that the field of Home Ec was in part founded by the first female graduate of MIT and was not only grounded in hard science but was meant to reduce or eliminate household drudgery so that women could be freed up to do what they wanted to out in the world. Fascinating look of the history from the start tp modern women who shape the world. Lisa

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