Women’s History Book Club: The Secret History of Home Economics
Calling all book lovers! Please join the National Women’s History Museum for a meeting of our Women’s History Book Club. The Women’s History Book Club is a (virtual) place to gather, discuss, and learn from and about a selected book that uplifts women’s stories and voices. As part of this intimate community, participants will take part in an interactive conversation with members of NWHM staff about our selected book.
This meeting we will discuss The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live by Danielle Dreilinger (W.W. Norton, May 2022).
From W.W. Norton:
The surprising, often fiercely feminist, always fascinating, yet barely known, history of home economics.
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. And it has something to teach us today.
In the surprising, often fiercely feminist and always fascinating The Secret History of Home Economics, Danielle Dreilinger traces the field’s history from Black colleges to Eleanor Roosevelt to Okinawa, from a Betty Crocker brigade to DIY techies. These women—and they were mostly women—became chemists and marketers, studied nutrition, health, and exercise, tested parachutes, created astronaut food, and took bold steps in childhood development and education.
Home economics followed the currents of American culture even as it shaped them. Dreilinger brings forward the racism within the movement along with the strides taken by women of color who were influential leaders and innovators. She also looks at the personal lives of home economics’ women, as they chose to be single, share lives with other women, or try for egalitarian marriages.
This groundbreaking and engaging history restores a denigrated subject to its rightful importance, as it reminds us that everyone should learn how to cook a meal, balance their account, and fight for a better world.
Purchase your copy here!
In order to facilitate an interactive conversation, space is limited, and registrants are encouraged to submit questions ahead of time by emailing us at [email protected] using the subject line: Women’s History Book Club Question.
Want to learn more about Black women’s history in Washington, DC? Hear more about NWHM’s inaugural exhibit on Black feminists in DC throughout the 20th century in partnership with the Martin Luther King Jr. Library opening March 2023!