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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.

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