In the early twentieth
century, Cornell home economists played a prominent role in improving
American health and hygiene practices for both rural and urban families.
Their educational programs, shaped by Anglo-Saxon middle-class values
characteristic of Progressive Era reform, had an enormous impact on
social welfare practices, public education, and immigrant experience.
They also furthered the cause of unions, settlement houses, and women's
Cornell's Progressive Era home economists designed and facilitated
government programs to improve the public welfare, and federal agencies
used their academic research as the basis for policies affecting women
and children. The College of Home Economics also earned national acclaim
for its innovative programs, such as the Department of Family Life,
begun in 1925, which stressed the use of modern psychological research.
As the century progressed, research conducted by Cornell home economists
contributed to a greater understanding of vitamins, calories, and
proteins, as well the development of modern freezer equipment and
food storage; better stain removal treatments and durable synthetic
fibers; more efficient household design; and improved consumer practices.
In the 1960s, the nationwide Head Start program incorporated Urie
Bronfenbrenner's child development research in its strategy to improve
educational opportunities for children from low-income families.
Cornell home economists became active in international affairs beginning
in the l920s, engaging in cooperative teaching and research. By the
1950s, they were active in many countries, with extensive projects
in Belgium, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Ghana, and Liberia,
to name a few. Several affiliates of the College of Home Economics
were invited to lead international conferences on the relationship
between family and community and the role of education in women's
lives. These international endeavors took on political significance
when, at the height of the cold war, the Department of Human Development
and Family Studies arranged a cross-national research program with
the Soviet Union.
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