Home Ec’s ‘Secret History’

New book explores how home economics influenced American life and public education beyond ‘stitching and stirring’

(EWA Radio Episode 276)

Photo courtesy of Danielle Dreilinger

Often overlooked and misunderstood, home economics is about far more than learning to bake cakes or sew lopsided oven mitts, argues education journalist Danielle Dreilinger. She discusses her new book, “The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live.” Dreilinger explores the fascinating — and largely forgotten — origins of home ec, including how it became a staple of the K-12 curriculum, and opened the door to higher education for tens of thousands of women in the 20th century. Also, how does home ec continue to shape the daily lives of Americans? What complicated role did the discipline play in civil rights and gender equity activism? Plus, what are some story ideas for education journalists interested in how home economics is taught today in their local schools?

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