Eleanor Roosevelt played an integral role in the development of
the College of Home Economics from the 1920s to the 1940s. As the
wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the governor of New York from 1928
to 1932, and later as First Lady, from 1933 to 1945, she employed
her fame and influence in ways that resulted in greater
financial support for home economics programs and increased
publicity for the College. The home economics movement appealed
to Roosevelt's interest in social reform for women, and she became
one of its most prominent advocates. Additionally, Roosevelt's enthusiastic
endorsements of home economics education programs brought national
attention to the movement. As she said in a speech in 1934: "I feel
I have a right to take pride and particular interest in what happens
in the College of Home Economics. To me, it is the most important
part of the university, for it concerns the homes of the people
of this country."
Through their work for the College of Home Economics, Eleanor
Roosevelt became close friends with co-directors Martha Van Rensselaer
and Flora Rose. Photographs and
personal correspondence reveal their camaraderie.
In January 1925, Martha Van Rensselaer, co-director of the home
economics program, invited Eleanor Roosevelt to serve on the Home
Economics Council of Presidents, an association of women's educational
organizations, which lobbied for the creation of a state college
of home economics. Roosevelt was a strong addition to the Home Economics
Council; she was a member of the New York State's Advisory Council
of Women, which advised the governor and legislature on women's
education. Additionally, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been a state
assemblyman from 1910 to 1913, and, as a result, Eleanor had become
friends with many influential figures in New York State politics.
With her support one month later, the New York State legislature
passed a bill that made Cornell's School of Home Economics the New
York State College of Home Economics.