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!
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.