Welcome to my Gallery of Home Economics Textbooks. I will be adding new books as I get them, provided they're as gorgeous as the ones pictured here, of course.


I really hated home ec when I had to take it in
junior high school.


Dress by Bess V. Oerke (Peoria, Illinois: Chas A. Bennett Co., Inc., 1956; Ninth Large Printing, 1960) - I got this one at a St. Vincent de Paul in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What's particularly pleasing about it, besides the beautiful color cover, is the fact that someone's sewing assignment - a small square of white cotton with some large and wobbly stitches in red - was left between the covers. Even better, there was also a copy of The Mercedian, school newspaper of Mercy High, dated Feb. 17, 1967, announcing that Mary Clare Fabishak finished first among Mercy seniors in the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow contest.

I was at a particularly self-conscious and uncomfortable stage of adolescence, and I hated "girly" stuff with a passion.

I already knew how to cook, so that was no big deal, although eating during class was definitely
a benefit.


Experiences With Foods by L. Belle Pollard (Boston: Ginn & Company, 1960) - This one's from a St. Vincent de Paul in Santa Cruz, California. Many home economics texts included boys in their targeted audience -- at least in theory. Boys were featured in photos and they were occasionally incorporated into the text. However, the books were clearly aimed at girls -- they take an active role in the photos, and often the prose assumes a female reader. EWF is no exception. While a boy is featured on the cover, he merely looks on while the girls do the work. We don't even see his face. He appears again in a later photo, still in red, face still hidden, looking on as his date takes a piece of fruit from a vendor at a farmer's market. The text always refers to the "homemaker" in the feminine: "She delegates tasks to her helpers." Mostly, standing around duty is delegated to the guys. Except, of course, in the section on Entertaining, when we learn that at barbecues, the whole family may help with cooking, "each according to his skills."

I've never been good at sewing, and what possessed me to pick out that cream-colored, rose-spangled jersey for the t-shirt project, I'll never know (and -- please! -- let's forget about
the olive green ribbed trim).


Your Home and You by By Carlotta C. Greer and Ellen P. Gibbs (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1963 ed.) - I also have a copy from 1950, in which little appears to have changed from the original 1948 edition. Both of these were gifts from friends. (Hi, Paul! Hi, Russell!) Both are excellent examples of the "all-around" home ec text, including chapters on food preparation, child care, good grooming and sewing. According to authors Greer and Gibbs, "Reading is one of the best leisure time activities. Choose some reading matter which takes effort and provokes thought. If you read only comic books, picture magazines and easily read materials, you may settle into poor reading habits. Avoid reading that only wastes your time." Uh oh.

The day the woman from the modelling agency came to class to teach us about charm was an unqualified disaster.


Teen Guide To Homemaking by Marion S. Barclay and Frances Champion (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1967) - I love this one, and found it just around the corner at my local branch of Goodwill. I love the cover. I love the layout (the pages have a two inch orange border containing lists of helpful hints and mini-quizzes). I love the cute mod fashions in the color section. Five years later, the third edition came out and the charm was, for the most part, gone. Nevertheless, the 1972 and 1977 editions (yes, I have all three) are notable for their lists of low-paying, dead-end "career options," like vegetable cook or children's clothes salesperson. Oddly, word-processing isn't mentioned.

And the unit on babysitting? Don't ask.


Thresholds to Adult Living by Hazel Thompson Craig (Peoria, Illinois: Chas. A. Bennett Co., Inc., 1962) - This one came from Value Village in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I don't know if you can quite make out from the above photo that somebody (surely not either of the book's previous owners, whose names are scrawled inside the cover) drew an executioners hood, axe and cross, along with a righteous pair of shades on the guy standing between the two girls. Make no mistake, Hazel Craig's world view was strictly squaresville: "The importance of being a good wife cannot be emphasized too greatly. For instance, the Air Force has found 'a direct correlation between aircraft mishaps and unsettled home life ... The husbands get to thinking about rows with the little woman while they are up there and the first thing you know they press the wrong button.'" Stand forewarned, ladies. Gents, what do you mean you're not in some branch of the armed forces?

So who would have thought, lo these many years later, that home ec textbooks would take up such a large part of my collection?


Adventuring In Home Living by Hazel M. Hatcher and Mildred E. Andrews (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1959; 1965 printing) - Another gift. (Thanks, Tracy!) Of all the books featured here, this one is most successful at integrated boys into the text, albeit only in particular places (the hygiene unit, but not the home decorating chapter). Best of all, it's written in a hilarious storybook manner. For example, we meet Miss Maitland's home ec class, which seems to be populated with goody two-shoes like Henry, who, carried away by excitement in the good-grooming unit, suggests that they have a quiz about health habits that lead to better appearance. "I know," he pipes up, "we might call it 'Magic for Me.'" Maybe for you, Henry. Maybe for you.


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