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‘Home Ec’ For All

A home economics class at the Henry L. Pierce School in Dorchester, MA, 1893. (Credit: Boston Public Library)

A home economics class at the Henry L. Pierce School in Dorchester, MA, 1893. (Credit: Boston Public Library)

In 1972, a well known feminist named Robin Morgan addressed the Home Economics Association, accusing it of producing “a limp, jibbering mass of jelly waiting for marriage.” Back then, home economics classes — which taught girls and young women to cook, sew and run a household while their husbands were busy in the office — were seen as wildly out of step with the principals of gender equality.

Fast forward to 2013: “home ec” classes are gone. But almost a third of Americans under 19 are over-weight or obese, and many don’t know the basics of nutrition or how to shop for and cook a healthy meal. They are in debt and unable to balance a checkbook, let alone negotiate the complexities of credit cards and student loans. Some say it’s time to bring back home ec to benefit both women and men.


Ruth Graham, contributor to The Boston Globe’s Ideas section and author of the recent piece “Bring Back Home Ec!

Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University.


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  • MamaMinistry

    As a member of GenX/The Bridge Generation, I feel angry that my grandmothers learned in school, and even my parents too, how to efficently and cost-effectively run one’s personal/family financial life and household. I struggle to run my family’s household efficiently, feeling I lack knowledge and skills that would help. As girl raised in the 70s, I could be liberated from countless household headaches by knowing now how to do cleaning, accounting, nutrition/ cooking

  • Kathy

    I think your guest was right both that these old programs needed to die and that it’s time to bring them back in a new more practical form. I’m an Xer who got the tail end of both shop and home ec. Everyone, male or female, had to take two semesters of both. Our cooking teacher taught basic skills, particularly about how to avoid using pre-packaged junk. I still use some of the recipes I learned in that class. Unfortunately, the other three were gadgety. Shop was an unpleasant waste that left me able to use an welding torch and power tools, but not how to fix the float on a toilet or rewire a light socket. Sadly, sewing was the same way. I can thread a sewing machine, but I can’t sew a button on for my life.

    Actual economics were ignored sadly, but while I think economic skills are important, please recognize the term “balance a checkbook” is almost painfully dated. Checks are dead and with instant electronic payments, balancing pretty much amounts to looking at your current balance.

  • http://www.home-ec101.com/ Heather Solos

    As the author of Home-Ec 101, I find these discussions both interesting and highly amusing.

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