Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Home Economics

I'm a Home Economist. That's the fancy title I've decided I should have. Homemaker is a nice term on its own, but it has connotations these days that I don't like. And I really hate the term housewife. I'm not married to my house, though at times that seems the case. And I'm not like a housecat that is always confined to inside the house. I do get to leave occasionally. (Martha Stewart's house arrest was nothing compared to my life and the lives of women like me.)

The dictionary definition of economy is "thrifty and efficient use of material resources, frugality in expenditures, and the arrangement or mode of operation of something." I do that. The dictionary definition of home economics is "the theory and practice of homemaking — called also home ec \-'ek\." I do that too.

I never had any home ec classes in school. Back in elementary and middle school Sevier County couldn't afford to offer them. Then when I went to high school in Georgia most 'good' students were told not to 'waste' their time with those electives but to take only academic classes to better prepare us for college. I'm pretty sure my high school had some home ec classes, but I didn't know anyone who actually took them.

Back in the early twentieth century most colleges and universities had home economics majors. My alma mater, Maryville College, certainly did. Here are some photos from a 1926 yearbook from Maryville that I bought for probably 50 cents or a dollar at one of those old book sales at the college library. (I love old books, and this yearbook is one of the most beautifully produced I've ever seen.) The first is of a girl graduating with a Home Ecomonics degree. I find the description of her almost insulting, "she is one of our best Home Economics students, but we're not surprised because she is like some other girls who show it in their faces that they have a tendency for that sort of thing." Are they saying she's homely? She doesn't look any more homely than any of the other girls. I'd hate to read the description they would have given me!

home ec.

This second photo is of the bedroom from the Home Economics Department's "practice house." I suppose back then it was necessary to learn the proper way to make a bed, but I have to wonder what other bedroom skills they might have taught in this "practice bedroom." Oh, just because it was 1926 didn't mean that they didn't talk about sex and all that. Isn't sex just another part of home-making? Maybe the description of the girl above was implying that part of home ecomonics showing in her face?



I find it almost funny that there used to be entire college departments devoted to teaching women how to be homemakers, or home economists. But I have to remember that in our time we have so many devices and things that are supposed to make our lives more efficient and easier. I guess women did have to go to college or somewhere to learn how to do certain home centered activities and how to do others better, like sewing and cooking, than if they just taught themselves. I'm sure there was more to it than I can imagine.

This brings me to my own efforts at home economics. This summer I've been canning tomatoes and making jelly. The photo below shows this summer's bounty so far. I like preserving the things that have grown from the earth. It gives me a better appreciation of where our sustenance comes from. It's amazing that one tiny seed can produce a huge plant that bears pounds of tomatoes for us to eat in the winter. I feel closer to God or the Divine or whatever you want to call It when I engage in the "thrifty and efficient use of material resources." It brings me joy. So far I've canned 11 or 12 quarts of tomatoes and 9 cups of blueberry jelly. (Some of the smaller jars are apple butter I made from apples my dad grew last year.) I have another batch of tomatoes to can today.

15 comments:

DHammett said...

It's funny how two different people can look at or read the same thing and come away with different impressions. I think, given the time this yearbook was published, that a face that shows "a tendency for that sort of thing (home economics)" would be a positive comment. Given changes in wardrobe and hairstyle, and compared with the guy whose picture also adorns the entry, she certainly can hold her own in the looks department. It's not like the article said, "She has a great face for radio."

It's too bad there are no longer any home economics departments or courses in the schools. What job can be more important that raising and caring for a family? Today's children are tomorrow's adults. And doing a good job of stretching the budget is crucial in this day and age. I have to admit, though, I'm a little surprised cooking and sewing and the like weren't taught in the home back in the day.

Maybe you're right...maybe the pictures of the girl and the bedroom are implying something about bedroom eyes.

word verification: ipairtx - one pair of tickets?

Rae Ann said...

dh, two tickets to where?

And I think you fancy that girl in the photo! lol Maybe that part about her having 'pep' and always being 'ready for the fun' is some kind of double entendre too.

word ver.=fklvkrnl (seriously!)

DHammett said...

My interpretation of your verification: (censored)love kernel

Mine was serious, last time, too. Two tickets...think Eddie Money

And yeah, girls with pep who were always ready for the fun always appealed to me. *Trying to suppress huge grin*

SierraBella said...

My father taught me to make a bed and to sew!

Bed making teaching was military style- a coin must bounce off the tightly made bed.

He was a Singer salesman for a while and was required to learn to sew!

Rae Ann said...

dh, great(or something else?) minds think alike! That was what I thought of for the word verification and for the two tickets. I haven't posted lyrics in a while, maybe it's time.

While I was grocery shopping earlier today I was thinking about why women went to college back then to learn how to cook and clean and sew and all that. It was probably more that they were looking to get their MRS degrees and also the prestige of going to college. The more I think about it the more I wonder about what exactly went on in that 'practice house.' lol

word ver.= xrpatpsr (why do I keep getting ones with X?)

Rae Ann said...

sierrabella, my dad taught me how to make jelly. My mom taught me to sew. We used to have to make our beds like that too.

Kat said...

I could have used more home economics classes! In middle school I took it long enough to learn how to make sweat pants, they were too short. In high school we cooked something, but I don't even remember what it was! I hate to cook. LOL

Sylvana said...

My father taught me how to cook, make bread, can goods, and clean house (well, he could have done a better job on that last one, I guess). All the while he complained about how he shouldn't have to do it because it was women's work.
Ah! That's my dad!

I also think that there is something soothing to the spirit to be frugal with your resources and make things yourself like sewing and canning.

Kristi said...

I am very jealous of your food preservation skills. I aspire to learn how to can and freeze vegetables and jams. My mother canned/froze tons of fresh veggies while I was growing up, but never let me help. She never let me help or taught me to do a lot of things around the house. She was more interested in it being done "right" than teaching me. Ok. I don't mean to vent about my mom.

I was just commenting to my dh today how I wanted to be a better homemaker. I am learning how to do it as I go. I suppose that is the hard way.

I did freeze some hot peppers to use in chili later this winter. Go me. I also have frozen a ton of breastmilk. And blueberries! Oh. I am so proud of myself!

I agree with dhham that raising children/making a home is one of the most important things that any person can do.

wordver: siszq For some reason I am craving chocolate.

Assorted Babble by Suzie said...

I am a bit older than you, hate to admit (LOL) but yes we all had to take home economics back then. (where I lived) Actually I never really liked it that much. Can't sew, not a good baker and just the whole thing of being a Domestic Godness never much appealed to me, however I love interior design. (or spending money for upgrades to my finally discovered style of what I found was me)

Old Books - Love them especially my Emily Posts ones - so many others too, but these are very old.

Canning - With alway having a garden up until the last several years, you better believe tomatoes and pickles were canned. Herbs are still in my life with a few plants though, but just heart broken without that being a huge part of my day - gardening.

Nice post Rae Ann enjoyed it...made me think of life and a home alive with family with different projects on going and keeping myself busy.

I have a post, that is important to me anyway, that I wish for you to comment on when you get time. Sort of a survey but a simple comment is all that would help.

Your friend here...prayers for you, your Dad, Mr's G's his, MM and his, Sam and her Dad etc....OMG what is happening....lately...oh yeah, sent you an email, wondering if you got them?

Rae Ann said...

kristi, your mother sounds a lot like mine. She never let us do laundry growing up because she was afraid we'd break her washer. Canning tomatoes is easy. You can find lots of good books that tell/show you how. And I'm always craving chocolate! lol

suzie, yes, I got them, sorry I've been slow to reply. I'm on my way over right now. Sorry things are seeming so grim.

Rae Ann said...

sylvana, your dad sounds really cool like mine! Thanks for stopping by!

Rae Ann said...

kat, I hate to cook too!

Kristi said...

You have inspired me! I have been a domestic goddess for the past 24 hours!

Rae Ann said...

kristi, wow! That's so cool! I sometimes call myself a domesticated goddess. lol