Another exploration of how we got from there to here.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, there arose a new form of education for women, under various names; sometimes called ‘domestic science’, at other times, ‘household science’, and also, ‘home economics’.
In each case, the idea seemed to be, that a woman learning how to be a homemaker from one’s mother, grandmothers, aunts, etc., no longer ‘cut it’; that they needed to learn a new, ‘scientific’ approach to homemaking skills; to this end, schools began offering courses of this nature, and encouraging young women to enroll in this ‘higher education’ so as to apparently become better homemakers.
One activist for this type of education was a Canadian woman named Adelaide Hoodless; a few years ago, I visited an exhibit about her at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec; I took a number of pictures of the display; each of these can be magnified to read the text more clearly, by clicking on the pics.
Incidentally, I also found an old advertisement for the Macdonald Institute referred to in the above display, in a cookbook from 1908:
Others got in on the act, too; a couple years ago, in Toronto, I stumbled on a neo-classical building whose top bore the following inscription, below:
From the coat of arms at the top of the building, I realized this ‘Department of Household Science’ had been part of the University of Toronto; researching, I found a couple of interesting articles about the building and the school, here and here. It’s interesting to me that it was the wealthy Massey family (who made their fortunes selling the famous Massey tractors (now Massey-Ferguson)) who bankrolled this U of T program; puts me in mind of the Rockefellers in the States, spending their fortunes to promote progressivism… But I get ahead of myself here.
On balance, were these schools of ‘home economics’ / ‘domestic science’ / ‘household science’, a good thing or a bad thing, for society?
Adelaide Hoodless and Clara Benson believed in teaching homemakers some science, particularly new (at the time) techniques like sterilization, and new knowledge about food chemistry, to help them; skills they wouldn’t likely otherwise learn from their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, etc. And that makes some sense, certainly. And Ms. Hoodless certainly liked to portray herself as no wild-eyed revolutionary; she even opposed women’s suffrage.
Yet did this new female education program not help set society on the course of the cult of the self-proclaimed ‘expert’? Was it really necessary for young women to leave the home to go learn skills that, apart from some scientific advances, they had hitherto then been quite able to learn at home from their mothers and other female relatives? It can well be argued, IMO, that this was the beginning of ‘expert worship’, that has ultimately ended up in our technocratic, managerial society of today. And more importantly, one can argue that this was a way to get women out of the home, and on the road, ultimately, to desiring careers and full social ‘equality’ with men, etc. Laura Grace Robins has made an excellent case for home economics ultimately being a vehicle for progressivism, here, worth reading in its entirety. I’d also add that one might well argue that it ultimately has led to the situation today, where young women of today have generally not gotten cooking, sewing, etc. skills passed down from their own mothers – Boomer women in particular were too busy with their careers – that the transferring of the teaching of essential life skills of yesteryear to ‘experts’, has ultimately led to the actual societal loss, largely, of those skills. Of course, one can make a similar case for government control of education dumbing down society compared to parochial education, private schools, and homeschooling, of yesteryear.