Progress of the women's course

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Home Economics: Progress of a Course, 1895–2005

Pioneers of the women's course

Mary MayoMary Mayo

Born Mary Anne Bryant on May 25, 1845, Mary Mayo grew up on a farm near Battle Creek, Michigan. Her family believed in the value of a good education, so she studied in a private school taught by two of her aunts. She became a teacher following her graduation from high school. She left the teaching profession after a couple of years to marry Perry Mayo, a veteran of the Civil War.

Mayo became active in the Grange, known officially as the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry. In the Grange, women were admitted as equals to men and therefore became a salvation and outlet of companionship for many farm women. Mayo worked hard for the organization and was a good speaker, with the ability to hold her audience’s attention. Through her speeches, Mayo began to advocate for a creation of a women's course and the building of a women's dormitory at the Michigan Agricultural College. She was critical of the current curriculum, saying that it offered little to farm women and less to city women. She prodded the Grange members to support a resolution advocating courses for women at the college.

Mayo's dream became a reality in 1896, when the Women's course was officially created. In 1900, at the dedication of the Women's Building (Morrill Hall), the young women present honored Mayo with a standing ovation.

Edith McDermottEdith McDermott

Edith Florence McDermott was the first professor of Domestic Economy and Household Science at Michigan Agricultural College. Appointed in 1896, she taught all of the courses for the women's course and was matron of Abbot Hall, the dormitory assigned to the women. Prior to MAC, McDermott had been a teacher of domestic science in Allegheny's Fifth Ward Manual Training and Domestic Science School. During the second year of the women's course, Harriet Bacon relieved McDermott as matron, which allowed her more time to focus on academics. McDermott left MAC the next year.

Maud KellerMaud Keller

Maud Ryland Keller succeeded Edith McDermott as dean of women. Keller came to MAC with an AB and an AM from Wellesley College. She had been a teacher at a girls' school out east prior to her appointment at MAC. When she accepted the position as dean of qomen, it was a quite a promotion for Keller. In addition to supervising life at the hall, she taught English and ethics several hours each week. When the women's course moved into Morrill Hall in 1900, Keller was in charge of equipping the new building. Although moving into a new building involved a great deal of work, she believed that having a new facility would be a great improvement for the women's program. She resigned in 1901 to return to work in private schools in Rhode Island and Connecticut. She died in 1935 after a long illness at her home in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Maude GilchristMaude Gilchrist

Maude Gilchrist became the dean of women in the summer of 1901. She brought with her a wide educational background and vast teaching experience. She received a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State Teachers College; spent three years at Wellesley College, where she tutored freshmen in mathematics; spent a year in Germany at the University of Goettingen; and received a MA from the University of Michigan. She also spent a summer at Iowa Agricultural College studying prairie plants under Charles Bessey; a summer at the Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory; and took two winter courses in economic botany at Harvard University under George Goodale. Prior to MAC, she spent three years as an instructor at Iowa State Teachers College, 10 years teaching botany at Wellesley, and four years as dean at the Illinois Women's College. She taught ethics and the history of education, as well as the occasional section on botany, when needed. During her 12 years at MAC, enrollment in the women's course increased more than 125 percent and the curriculum was advanced to a higher level.

Marie DyeMarie Dye

In 1922, Marie Dye became the first woman with a PhD to be appointed to the faculty at Michigan State University. When Dye became dean of the Division of Home Economics in 1930, there was only one department under her supervision. When she retired in 1956, the College of Home Economics had four departments and 14 female faculty members with PhDs.

Goal oriented and visionary, Dye brought national and international recognition to MSU. She advanced multidisciplinary and integrative teaching, research, and outreach to numerous individuals and families in communities through Michigan and the nation.

A nationally known leader in home economics, she served as president of both the American and Michigan Home Economics Associations. She was active in the American Dietetic Association, the Institute of Nutrition, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others. She also received a number of honors including election to Phi Beta Kappa and an honorary doctor of laws degree from Michigan State University.

Beatrice PaolucciBeatrice Paolucci

Though not involved in the administration of the College of Human Ecology, Beatrice Paolucci contributed much to the profession. Paolucci first arrived at MSU in 1951 as a professor of home economics. She left for a few years to pursue positions at other institutions, but returned to MSU in 1953 and spent more than 25 years as a faculty member in the College of Human Ecology.

Paolucci served as acting chairperson of the Department of Family and Child Services from 1967 to 1969 and again from 1970 to 1973. She was a prolific writer of books and articles. Paolucci identified what she thought the mission and scope of the home economics profession should be in her writings.

Paolucci was a dedicated teacher as well as renowned scholar. She was twice named MSU distinguished faculty member. She was also recognized by her peers when she was awarded the Distinguished Services Award from the American Home Economics Association. Paolucci died of cancer in 1983.

Jeanette LeeJeanette Lee

Jeanette Lee arrived at MSU in 1937 as an instructor of foods and nutrition. She was named assistant dean in 1956, acting dean in 1963, and dean in 1964. She retired in 1971. Her tenure covered a period of great transition. Lee recognized that the field of home economics should respond to the evolving needs of society. Consequently, she led the faculty to conduct an intense study of the college's role and future directions. The results of that study reaffirmed the ecological conceptualization of the field. The college then adopted the name, College of Human Ecology and the undergraduate curriculum was revised to reflect this new approach.

Lee was known as a forward-looking leader. In addition to the outstanding work she did at MSU, Lee served on a national advisory committee for the White House Conference on Aging. She chaired a national study on "Concepts in Home Economics," and directed a study of the relationship of liberal arts to home economics for the Institute of Higher Education at Columbia University.


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