“Studying the Home: Women and Home Economics at University of Puget Sound” is an exhibit that focuses on the transformation of the Home Economics department from its beginnings in 1910, when it was known as Domestic Science, to its final days in the early 1980s when the department was renamed Nutrition and Textiles. Over the course of the department’s seventy years, the program promoted individualism and provided women with the means to incorporate science into their daily lives.
In the early twentieth century, home economics empowered and encouraged women such as Ellen Swallow Richards, a pioneer of home economics, to incorporate science in their home life. The University of Puget Sound, following Ellen Richards’ example, developed the Home Economics department, allowing women to study science. The department focused on improving methods of homemaking and taught scientific efficiency in consumer goods. This education continued well into the mid-century, when consumer trends skyrocketed, allowing home economics students to work with businesses to educate consumers about new household technologies. In addition, home economics majors studied clothing and textiles, nutrition, and child development, and early classes were based upon chemistry and biology that better educated students in the food laboratory.
Towards the 1960s and 70s, the Home Economics department transformed and became less scientific and more focused on degrees in education. By 1970 most graduates within the Home Economics department placed an emphasis on K-12 education and went on to become teachers in middle schools and high schools. The rise of feminism also created issues for the Home Economics department, which may have contributed to the department’s name change in 1977 to Nutrition and Textiles and ultimately its dissolution in 1982.
This exhibit, curated by senior Halle Beitler, a major in the Science, Technology, and Society program, is currently on display on the 2nd floor of the Collins Memorial Library outside the Archives and Special Collections. There will also be a special exhibit presentation on April 30th at 4:00pm in the Archives Seminar Room. This exhibit contains photographs, student newspaper articles, and items from the University of Puget Sound Archives & Special Collections.
The Archives & Special Collections is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. or by appointment.
By Halle Beitler, Class of 2018