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
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
Select an image at left
or choose from the list below: