Friday, January 25, 2013

Long Live Home Economics Class!

It is difficult to know who began the  duotang binder entitled "Memories of Home Economics Class." It contains  photos from 1931 to 1958 related to home economics (called variously in our records dressmaking, cooking, home-making or home economics). There were a number of teachers who could have contributed during those years. The first recorded in the Sisters' Annals was a Mrs. Dorothy Colburn, followed by Sr. Mary Richard.  Though Mrs. Colburn left after a few years, she seems to have returned to the scene in 1933, and with her appeared Miss Terlau who remained after Mrs. C. left the following year.  However, Miss T. is last mentioned in 1935.  Her departure brought Sr. M. Mirella to the home ec. lab teaching cooking.  In 1936, Sister was joined in the dressmaking endeavor by Miss Virginia Ehrenfels. Was dressmaking a particular challenge?  Mrs J. F. Schulte appeared as the new dressmaking teacher in the record in 1937 while Sr. M. Mirella hung in with cooking and sewing.   Mrs. Schulte left in June of ’38 and was followed in the next school year by Sr. M. Verda, whom some readers will remember. In her first year teaching, having graduated from the academy herself in 1934, Sr. M. Verda taught the sewing end of Home Ec. while Sr. M. Mirella held down the cooking.  This arrangement lasted until the fall of 1945 at which time the latter left the academy for a few years and was replaced by Sr. M. Annata, perhaps another familiar name.  The two Sisters worked in the department teaching home-making, cooking and sewing for several years.  Sr. M. Verda served as chairperson of the department until the spring of 1994 at which time she retired.  Sr. M. Annata had retired several years prior to '94.

It’s impossible to know now what happened to the lay women who taught in the home economics department, but the Misses could have left to get married—a more than probable reason in the 1930s—while one imagines that Mrs. Colburn and Mrs. Schulte were widows who may have retired from the teaching scene.

The evidence for the time period for the binder is the years handily noted for several photos—the first 1931 and the last 1958.  The photos, many large, fill about 40 pages and show students at work or modeling their products.  There are several photos that give a good idea of what the labs at 5th Street looked like, fairly spacious with equipment that was standard at the time. 

All in all, blogger considers the artifact quite a treasure from an often overlooked department, certainly so in today’s high schools.  Lucky the school that has a flourishing home ec. program where students can learn the art of graceful survival in a world of pre-made everything.  NDA still has vestiges of the classical home economics department in its textile arts class.  Long live “the art of graceful survival in a world of pre-made everything.”