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College of Human Ecology
Cornell University
  home sewing
  a profession?
  type of research?
  types of careers?
  national and international impact?
  educational techniques?
  role in national emergencies?
  influence on consumer culture?
  students' self-definition?
  practice apartments?
  role in the university?
  change to Human Ecology?
  women's suffrage
  Eleanor Roosevelt
  Marriage Course

What Type of Research
Did Home Economists Do?

The research of Cornell home economists was multifaceted, ranging from bacteriology to human behavior. Faculty members from the college developed innovations in food conservation and preparation, product and housing design, textiles, home management and budgeting, as well as new scientific ideas about child development. Early home economists worked in laboratories, in the field doing research, and in an on-site nursery school where they used moving pictures to document child behavior.

Sources of funding always influenced the direction and focus of their research. Beginning in 1914, the Smith-Lever Act stimulated activity with a mandate to give instruction in home economics across the nation. The Purnell Act of 1925 provided federal money to facilitate the scientific investigation of vitamins and rural-home-management studies; and in 1929, New York State established funds for research in the economics of the household. In 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, the Bankhead-Jones Act supplied federal money for the study of human nutritional needs.

In addition to these public sources, beginning in 1925, significant grants to Cornell from the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial spurred empirical research in child health, behavior, and guidance. Featured here are seven faculty members whose research reflects the breadth of scholarship in home economics before World War II.

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