Home economics at
Cornell had its beginnings in a historic 1899 meeting in Lake Placid,
New York. It was here that a new field of education emerged, dedicated
to improving the quality of life in the American home through the
application of modern science and management. Melvil Dewey, inventor
of the Dewey Decimal System, and his wife Annie were central figures
at the conference. Ellen Swallow
, a sanitary engineer from M.I.T., and Wilbur O. Atwater,
Director of the first United States Agricultural Experiment Station
and a pioneer in human nutrition research, also attended.
Liberty Hyde Bailey, professor of horticulture and later dean
of the College of Agriculture, brought home economics to Cornell
University. On the suggestion of Anna Botsford Comstock he invited
Martha Van Rensselaer
to Cornell to develop the Farmers' Wives Reading Course, similar
to one already in place for farmers. In 1901, the first issue of
the bulletin Saving Steps attracted considerable attention.
Enrollment in the reading course quickly grew to over six thousand,
launching home economics as a field.
At Cornell, home economics grew as a collegiate field of study.
In 1903-1904, Van Rensselaer, Bailey and Comstock offered three
courses relating to home and family life within the College of Agriculture.
In 1906, the first winter course was given in home economics. A
year later, Bailey created a Department of Home Economics headed
by Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora
Rose, who in 1911 were appointed to professorships, the first
for women at Cornell. In 1925, Cornell's College of Home Economics
became the first state-chartered school of its type in the country,
and Van Rensselaer and Rose were named co-directors. Four years
later, the New York State Legislature appropriated $985,000 for
the erection of a new building for the college. Martha Van Rensselaer
Hall opened in 1933, and the college took its permanent place at
Cornell. It became the New York State College of Human Ecology in
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