Home Economics: Progress of a Course, 1895–2005

Origins | Women's course | Maturity of the program

Origins of the women's course
Professor Taft's horticulture class

Early women students took the same classes as the men, but often did not graduate. Professor Taft's horticulture class audience includes two women in the room full of men.

Women leaders in the state feared that the college's agricultural program held little interest for farm girls and even less for city girls.

Women leaders in the state feared that the college's agricultural program held little interest for farm girls and even less for city girls.

The class of 1887, who pose here as freshmen on the steps of the botany laboratory, is decidedly short on women.

The class of 1887, who pose here as freshmen on the steps of the botany laboratory, is decidedly short on women.

Old Abbot Hall

Old Abbot Hall, a former men's dormitory, was remodeled in order to house women students for the opening of the women's course in 1896. An addition was built for the cooking room and dining hall.

Mary Merrill

Mary Merrill, class of 1881, was the second woman to graduate from MAC. She went on to become the first full-time librarian, serving from 1883-88.

A typical women's room Inside Abbot Hall.

A typical women's room inside Abbot Hall. There were spaces for 40 women when it was converted for use by the women students.


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The women's course
Sewing class

Four hours per week of sewing class was required for sophomores in the new women's course.

MAC President Jonathon Snyder (1896-1915)

New MAC President Jonathon Snyder (1896-1915) agreed to introduce the women's course into the college's curriculum, which featured agricultural and engineering courses.

Edith McDermott (center) taught all the women's courses that first year, in addition to serving as Matron of Abbot Hall.

Edith McDermott (center) taught all the women's courses that first year, in addition to serving as matron of Abbot Hall. Help arrived the next year with arrival of a new matron so McDermott could focus on teaching.

Morrill Hall

Affectionately known as "the Coop," Morrill Hall was dedicated as the new women's dorm in 1900.

Morrill Hall became the first small residential college at MSU.

Morrill Hall became the first small residential college at MSU. Women lived and took classes there.

 

Women students marching in period clothing in the 1921 homecoming parade.

In the 1921 homecoming parade, women students marched in period clothing and remembered the first 51 years of women as students at Michigan State University.


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Maturity of the program
The first nursery school opened in 1927.

The first nursery school opened in 1927 and strengthened the program in child development, which had been introduced earlier in the decade.

In the 1940s students were still learning basic home techniques such as preserving strawberries.

In the 1940s, students were still learning basic home techniques such as preserving strawberries.

Design classes were among the required courses until the 1960s when the entire curriculum was overhauled.

Design classes were among the required courses until the 1960s when the entire curriculum was overhauled.

Human Ecology Building

Located next to the Union, the new Human Ecology Building was built in 1924 to accommodate the expanding department.

Women lounge in their dorm room in the 1950s.

Women lounge in their dorm room in the 1950s. A single dormitory did not house both men and women until 1970 when three residence halls began a coeducational living experiment. In Mary Mayo, Shaw, and Williams Halls, men and women were placed on different floors.  This experiment was the result of students petitioning the Board of Trustees.

A graduate student in the textile laboratory uses a compressor to measure the resiliency of a blanket.

To determine the best materials for home use, a graduate student in the textile laboratory uses a compressor to measure the resiliency of a blanket.


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