What is Home Economics?
Home Economics began as a discipline after the Industrial Revolution transformed women’s roles during the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution encouraged women to participate in the workforce en masse, and therefore classes at Universities began to replace traditional home instruction concerning the household and parenthood. The subject of Home Economics was multidisciplinary, drawing from departments such as economics, healthcare, teaching, psychology, and sociology. Since its inception, Home Economics programs taught thousands of women essential skills like understanding proper nutrition, child development and sanitation.
Because of its multidisciplinary nature, Home Economics had a hard time formally organizing. The American Home Economics Association (AHEA) was established in 1909 with the aim of improving “living conditions in the home, the institutional household, and the community.” Home Economics continued to become standardized in the 20th century, with schools like Cornell pioneering Masters and Ph. D. programs in the discipline. Through support from prominent women in society, such as Fist Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Home Economics programs received increased public support and government funding in the late 1930s and 1940s. Historically, Home Economics programs and organizations translated traditional household roles dominated by women into a workable academic social science.
Home Economics continued to be a powerful female force in academia until the late 1960s, when changing attitudes about gender roles lead to its decline in popularity. In the 1990s the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) evolved from the AHEA, into the primary hub for Home Economics in America today. The AAFCS offers certifications, research, and advocacy programs associated with the discipline of Home Economics.
Political Activism on University Campuses
Student participation in local or national politics has been a part of campus life since the founding of the university system itself. However, student activism was not significant enough to become a force for shaping national political policy until the question of German unification in the early 19th century. A popular political organization in German universities, Burschenschaften, fostered nationalism and promoted social reform of the German states. Burschenschaften’s success in promoting German unification would help later student organizations realize their collective power to enact change in the politics and direction of their state.
In America, the first national student groups were formed after World War I and became even more prominent after World War II. Veterans who enrolled in universities thanks to the G.I. Bill tended to become heavily involved in student groups like fraternities, veterans organizations, and student government. Their participation bolstered attention student groups received. When students arrived at universities in the 1960s, they found a healthy thriving campus community that was organized and able to support change. As a result, student organizations structured around popular political goals like civil rights, feminism, and politics became extremely popular on American campuses.
Political student organizations can have incredible power due to the structure of the American democratic system. Current and especially future political ideologies may be influenced by early exposure to politics in student groups. After university education, students in the 1960s would become members of the workforce and society as a whole. Therefore, student political organizations brought national politics, issues, and education to their members and campuses.