Thursday, January 9, 2014

Home Economics

Home economics senior Beverly McClure Dougherty '60
with an extravagantly frosted cake in Casa Margarita.
SOME OF US ARE OLD ENOUGH to have taken state-required home economics classes in middle school, a semester each of cooking and sewing. (Boys took "shop" – wood, metal, electrical, auto.) Among the army of local Home Ec teachers were many Mount alumnae.

The Department of Home Economics was one of the Mount's first, founded in 1932 by Sister Marguerite Ellard, CSJ.  It was a popular major from the 1940s well into the 1970s. Graduates were superbly qualified for two distinctive career tracks: credentialed Home Ec Teacher or Christian Wife and Mother. Yes, in those days the vocation of homemaker was considered every bit as important, if not more important, than teacher, nurse, or social worker.

We've been exploring our fascinating Home Ec archives the past couple of weeks, looking through decades of slides from the annual fashion show, where students showed off their smartly tailored dresses, suits and formal gowns. There are newspaper clippings, handwritten lecture notes from Pegi Parkinson '53 and records from the California Home Economics Association, in which the Mount frequently held leadership positions.

Far from earning a degree in housework, students were prepared to tackle societal issues affecting families and communities. Health and nutrition were key components as well: Sister Marguerite had been a member of the Mount's landmark cancer research department in the early 1950s, studying the effects of vitamins and diet on tumor growth. She no doubt brought her expertise to the Home Ec program, anticipating by decades the current interest in healthy eating.

The archives are comprehensive and well-organized, thanks to Sister Paulanne Munch, CSJ '55, whom we chatted with recently at Carondelet Center. Sister chaired Home Ec in the 1970s and 1980s assembled the collection when the department was folded into the Business Administration department the 1980s.  By then it encompassed fashion merchandising and public health.

For a complete listing of Home Economics holdings in the College Archives, go to our online archives catalog and click on the "anonymous user" link in the public catalog. Type in Home Economics (without quotes) in the search box. For photos, yearbooks and newspapers, visit our digital picture archives and search on "Home Economics" (with quotes.) Students and alumnae are welcome to visit the College Archives at Chalon and explore the physical collection firsthand.

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