... captivating ... spirited ... Despite the field’s ups and downs, Ms. Dreilinger maintains an upbeat tone ... Ms. Dreilinger charmed me with her account of home ec’s fascinating past. She didn’t quite sell me on the need for its future.
... a fascinating history of the field and of the contributions of some very determined women. It is also a revealing account of the title's reverse: how changes in the way women lived affected home economics. Further, it explores an issue generally ignored: Home economics, as an organized field, was as permeated by racism as the society around it ... Dreilinger concludes this stimulating book with suggestions for resuscitating home economics, among them, restoring its name, emphasizing science and practical skills, and making it mandatory in school for everyone.
Although Dreilinger voices discomfort with home economists who preached middle-class norms to the poor, her history demonstrates that the field has always been about the good life as defined by educated middle-class women ... A diligent reporter, not an intellectual historian, Dreilinger scants the broader context of the discipline’s evolution, viewing it instead through a contemporary progressive lens. She finds it paradoxical that people who supported women’s rights and food regulation looked favorably on eugenics and segregation. Few early-20th-century progressives saw a contradiction. These positions all fit into prevailing ideas of efficiency and scientific order. The women who replaced 'domestic science' with 'home economics,' tying their field to the ascendant social sciences, would be baffled by her bafflement ... the book doesn’t frankly confront the big question: As an academic discipline, does home economics still make sense? Women no longer need a ghetto to pursue careers in science or business. The problem of household drudgery has largely been solved. Maybe the field should go the way of natural history — scaffolding that served a vital purpose and then disappeared.
Dreilinger’s lively account offers a thorough look at a profession that allowed women to participate in public life even as they were barred from most jobs and areas of study ... Dreilinger pays considerable attention to the contributions that African American women have made to home economics, even as they were kept out of mainstream White organizations well into the 1960s.
... thoroughly entertaining ... As a journalist, Dreilinger knows the power of storytelling and makes the women from this history come to life ... Dreilinger also provides overall historical context, delineating the marginalization of Black women in the home economics field ... Dreilinger, who completed her book during the COVID-19 pandemic, correctly notes that people have been thinking about the meaning of home and how homes work more than ever before. As we look toward the future, it’s always good to consider where we’ve been, and The Secret History of Home Economics helps us do that.
... eye-opening ... Noting that African Americans were often excluded from professional organizations and opportunities, Dreilinger gives full consideration to the work of Black home economists ... With lively prose and engrossing portraits of dynamic and accomplished women, this is a vital and inspiring reassessment of an oft-caricatured field.
... spirited ... well-researched ... The author offers adroit portraits of women who shaped the field ... A fresh contribution to women’s history and a resurrection of contributions too often overlooked.