Too Late for Home Ec

I love YouTube. Not only is it the home of cat videos (!!!!), lately it has enabled me to watch full educational films that used to play in schools in the 1950s and 60s. While there have been a lot of really good ones, Iowa State University’s Home Economics Story from 1951 has to be my favorite.

This was the era when it was assumed that every woman would get married and leave the workforce, yet the video still emphasized how the home ec degree would provide a young woman with a way to earn a living until that blessed event occurred, and how learning about nutrition and fashion would benefit her future family.

When I was in school, there were cooking and sewing classes, but I never took them them. I don’t know that I know anyone who did. I am so grateful that I opted for typing class … on a manual typewriter … but I digress. I learned the basics of both cooking and sewing from Ma, and I have built up my skills over the years.

I’m facing a weird dichotomy right now. I was greatly affected by The Feminine Mystique, which I listened to in my car over the course of five weeks more than a year ago.

I’m still thinking about it. The issues she discussed seemed both foreign and completely contemporary. It made me want a career for the first time in my life. Yet at the same time, I am incredibly drawn to the skills of old. If given my choice of leisure activities, canning would win out 99% of the time if I had the room to store all the yumminess I created. There definitely will be future canning posts … and maybe even a video!

This year for the holidays my list includes a cool new apron and an old-fashioned apple corer/peeler. I feel a bit like I’m in a time warp.

I would love to teach people these skills I’m learning … okay, maybe after I’m better at it. Then again, while my friends love eating my creations, I’m not having anyone knock on my door and want to know how to do it themselves. You know what? That is okay. I like that this is my thing. It speaks to both my frugal and creative sides. What more could I ask for?

Are home ec classes still taught in schools? What book do you still find yourself thinking about ages after reading it? or What is your thing?

6 thoughts on “Too Late for Home Ec”

  1. Tammy, do you wonder sometimes if some people are born in a time when they feel a little out of place? Or that they don’t necessarily feel out of place, but feel a penchant for a different time than where you currently find yourself. Or do you ever consider that we bring these preferences or affinities with us from a former life? My first husband felt so often that he really belonged in the 18th century. I DID take a Home Economics sewing class in junior high, but like you, most of what I learned in domestic skills, sewing especially, I learned from my mother.

    So cool that you enjoy canning. I own a duplex that I rent out – and one renter is in his mid-40s and loves to vegetable garden in the backyard, cans them, makes jams and last time I visited to re-sign a lease with him, he was teaching himself to make sausages. I think that’s cool.


    1. My dance partner always said that I was born 30 years too late for my aesthetic. I am very grateful that I wasn’t born 30 years ago, since I would not have had the opportunities I have today. Also, I think I’m so drawn to the skills of that era because I didn’t HAVE to know them. I was able to come to them on my own.

      How wonderful that your tenant is learning the skills. There aren’t that many men that are interested.


  2. Tammy, I love your insight there – that perhaps you love them because you don’t HAVE to practice them. I so agree. I love to quilt and often step into any number of fantastic little locally owned quilt stores across the country and imagine it would be a dream job. Then I thing maybe not, because then it’s a job and I have to be there and I have to count inventory and I have to stress over what will and won’t sell and I have to…..etc., etc., etc. and the hobby side of it disappears. So, you’re spot on I think.


  3. You what’s funny is that I remember taking Home Ec back in middle school. It was a required course for every student, but only lasted half the year. The other half was for Shop class which was also required for every student. Some of the things I remember about it were sewing, cooking, nutrition and doing the laundry. In fact I remember this specific project where I had to create a pillow out of this fabric they brought it. Another one had the class making a plush football pillow (I guess there were a lot of pillow ideas).

    They do still have Home Ec, but it’s called something else now. I think they call it Family and Consumer Sciences. Sounds like a fancier name, doesn’t it?


    1. So often the knowledge that helps people on a day to day basis gets pushed out of the way for subjects more testable. How great that you learned the skills in schools, and that it was mandatory, especially the shop part coming from a girl’s perspective. Basic use of tools would have been very handy early on.


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