The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed The Power of Home and Changed The Way We Live

Danielle Dreilinger. Norton, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-324-00449-3
Journalist Dreilinger debuts with an eye-opening history of the field of home economics. Created in the late 19th century as a progressive, reform-minded discipline that sought to “change the world through the household,” home economics was viewed by its founders, MIT chemist Ellen Swallow Richards (1842–1911) among them, as a natural subfield of economics that had the potential to eliminate both poverty and drudgery. Universities established home economics departments and the government sought out the expertise of leading home economists during both world wars and the Great Depression. Noting that African Americans were often excluded from professional organizations and opportunities, Dreilinger gives full consideration to the work of Black home economists including Flemmie Kittrell (1904–1980), whose career spanned academia, government service, and domestic and international civil rights activism. Detailing changes in American education that have largely marginalized the field since the 1980s, Dreilinger outlines steps for its revitalization, including diversification and a renewed emphasis on the life skills and transformative social and ecological vision the discipline at its best has espoused. With lively prose and engrossing portraits of dynamic and accomplished women, this is a vital and inspiring reassessment of an oft-caricatured field. (May)
Reviewed on : 01/04/2021
Release date: 05/11/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-324-02186-5
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