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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Early Home Economists

Way back in Civil War era 1800s, the idea of home economics was on the rise as something to take more seriously as a form of education. Anyone who has been through the U.S. school system eventually realizes that it's a socializing system. The home economists of the mid- to late 1800s saw the home as the original and best way to not only socialize ourselves, but to ensure a fair and just socialization.

The home was also the antithesis to industry. In the images below, one can practically see the differences in social and emotional connections, or the lack there of. The image to the right shows an adult and a child working together on knitting. It is a painting by Jean-Francois Millet called Knitting Lesson, c. 1854. You can see the picture at Vangogh Gallery. This learning and production in the home, at least to me, exudes a socially just situation. The adult, for instance, believes that the young girl can learn to knit; the girl is valuable and necessary, and worthy of being taught. No books needed for this education - just being together to share skills by word and hand.

The image to the left is of Eliza Kempton working at a knitting machine (Whetstone, Leicestershire, from the 1890s). You can find this image at Knitting Together. Outside industrial production just looks lonely. There is no education going on, no sharing, and to me, this seems to make Eliza replaceable just like the knitting machine; just a part in the production line.

A future post will have some names of early home economists who didn't agree with the practices of home being put into industrial production. The excesses of production reduced the social practices and process in the home, and this began to be reflected in public practices and processes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Why Study Home Economics" - 1955

Here's another home economics video. This one is shorter but clear and to the point - girls will need to know all aspects of home management for their roles as homemakers and wives. One major assumption that came with early home economics study was that it was for heterosexuals. Of course, understanding how the economy of a home works is for everyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation; economy is gender neutral, right? I think it is the "home" part of home economics that has been assigned to women in our culture, and thus home economics in general remains the domain of women. How do we, or should we, de-genderize the home so that this type of economy becomes something for everyone?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Liberating Home Economics

Home Economics. I define it as the social and material practices that humans establish in the acquisition and processing of resources for living. Economy is about material usage; home economy is about how this plays out in a home. This blog is dedicated to sharing all information and knowledge about home economics in an attempt to raise awareness about historical and contemporary practices, and to establish information that people will find relevant in order for them to take action in liberating themselves, their homes, and the Earth's resources. The establishment of this blog on Liberating Home Economics is built upon multiple meanings.

First, home economics needs to be liberated from a marginalized space in our world, and should be afforded every opportunity to become what early home economists expected it to be - the center of our social actions. We should act to do the liberating.

Second, we as a people need to realize how we are liberated through home economy practices. When we take ownership of our practices, material productions, and social and educational development, we reintegrate ourselves with the Earth, resources, and emotions that breakdown the greed that is harmful and destructive.

Third, the home needs liberating from the oppressive consumption patterns of modern globalized material usage.

Welcome, and please feel free to contribute to your own liberation!

Friday, December 12, 2008

History of Home Economics at Cornell University

One of the most interesting things about home economics is its history. Cornell University in Ithaca, New York was home to one of the first major home economics departments. Part of this reason is that Cornell is the land-grant university for the state of New York, and is the home to the Cooperative Extension Service (more on this organization later) that continues to promote economic knowledge for the home.

You should check out the Cornell home ec website. It is full of information and rather interactive. Some things like the Domecon kids will seem unthinkable in today's world! Here's the web link:

Cornell Home Economics

"The Home Economics Story" - 1951

Here's a great video about choosing home economics as a profession. Home economists in the 1920s began trying to make home ec a profession so that colleges would see it as a valid area of study. It still maintained a division of labor aspect (i.e., geared toward women). At the time of this video in 1951, men were starting to be hired in home ec departments because they started to desire jobs in industry that women had held for a couple decades (although you won't see much of men as home economists or being given the choice of home ec in this video). The Corning Glassware company in Corning, New York is one example where home economists could find employment.

(If you are familiar with Mystery Science Theater movie commentary, you'll appreciate the edited version of this video at this link: