The term “home economics” may conjure traumatic memories of lopsided hand-sewn pillows or sunken muffins. But common conception obscures the story of the revolutionary science of better living. The field exploded opportunities for women in the twentieth century by reducing domestic work and providing jobs as professors, engineers, chemists, and businesspeople.
... 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.