Home Economics Education in the 1920s and 1930s

hotplate

Very likely the type of hotplate Miss Anderson used to teach home economics in 1925.

When I read that my mother, Harriette Anderson (Kaser) taught home economics her first year of teaching, and all she had in the way of equipment was a hot plate, I wondered what she taught.

Of course she was teaching a lot of stuff that had nothing to do with cooking. The newish science of home economics (in 1925) covered a good deal more than food. The objective was to turn young women into scientific home makers–able to use the latest and greatest discoveries in health and nutrition, new kinds of sewing machines, and how to be a home manager instead of just a house slave.

The fact Miss Anderson had only an electric hotplate to teach on in 1925 was not entirely unreasonable. In their homes, these girls may still have been cooking on wood stoves,  and using an ice house dug into the side of a hill to store perishables. Although ice boxes with delivery of ice would be widely used in urban areas, home refrigerators had only been introduced in 1914. There were no small electrical appliances. The first stand electric mixers were introduced in 1919. Even the simple toaster did not come along until 1926, and electric stoves were not popular until around 1930. And that did not matter to these farm families, because before the federal  Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in the 1930s, they had no electricity anyway.

Home Economics is Born

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was credited with fueling the north’s passion for the Civil War. But her sister Catharine Beecher wrote a book that may have had more lasting effects. In 1841, she published Treatise on Domestic Economy and in 1869, American Woman’s Home (co-authored by sister Harriet). According to the history of women in the kitchen, A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove,

“…she put forth a vision for the home economics movement, a movement that would not come to fruition until the turn of the twentieth century…Her most fervent cause was education for women, and she started many schools for women where ‘domestic science’ was a formal branch of study.  With education and professionalization, Catharine believed housework could be transformed from drudgery into a sacred job on equal footing with the professions of men.”

Catharine herself was never a traditional housewife because her fiancé was lost at sea and she never married. Coming from a family with servants, she may never have cooked. Her books were saturated with the Calvinistic religion of her father and the intellectual philosophy of the circle of New England literati and abolitionists and her extraordinary family members who gathered at the Beecher Hartford Connecticut home at Nook’s Farm.

Although she was a pioneer in this field, I can’t see the fundamentals of Miss Beecher’s teachings permeating the fun-loving 1920s that formed my mother. Catharine was a scold who was intent on improving women, particularly the lower classes so that they could fulfill the “great mission” of “self denial”. Food was not for enjoyment, but for character building. Furthermore, her religious background formed a philosophy where women were subservient to men and she did not believe in women voting. They should be educated–as teachers.

But the ‘get to work and stand up straight’ messages were salted with incredibly helpful hints for forward-looking home making. Move over Martha Stewart–Catharine explained that women could learn how to divide their home into rooms to best use the space, how to make their own picture frames and pant stands, organize their kitchens for maximum efficiency, and properly serve meals.

Home Economics in Ohio Schools

In 1914, a federal law required land grant colleges (including mother’s and my alma mater, Ohio State University)  to extend teaching of home economics and agriculture through county extension agents. That program was in full swing when mother started teaching in rural Ohio in 1925. In 1917, the federal government had started partially funding domestic science teaching in local schools, which probably explains why by the time mother started teaching, most Ohio schools–even a two-room school like Clark, Ohio– had home economics classes.

Harriette Anderson teacher

Clark, Ohio High School, the 1925-26 students. The 19-year-old teacher is on the far right.

But what could she teach to a class with three girls of various ages? Food was certainly going to be a challenge with only a hotplate to operate with. And I can imagine what those farm mothers thought about their girls being taught by some outsider the skills that had been passed down form mother to daughter for generations.

Home Economics for the Twenties and Thirties

In the twenties and thirties, women were being taught that cooking with commercially preserved foods was superior to using fresh or home-preserved. The newest, most modern, most economical and efficient way to cook was to use commercially prepared foods. Food manufacturers jumped on this opportunity and mother’s closet was full of brochures and cookbooks on how to use brand name products. The Singer company helped get sewing machines into classrooms. Pattern-makers catered to home economics teachers.

Since Miracle Whip was not introduced until 1933, this brochure must have come along a little later, but checking historic labels, I think this would have been very early. [Note: I had to leave out a couple of panels. The recipe that goes with the center bottom picture of food is Burgers and coleslaw. Also, the color balance is off–the mayo was just as white then as it is now.]

In a book called A History of Vocational and Career Education in Ohio 1828-2000, I learned that the first state coordinator of Home Economics was appointed in 1918.  I do not know for sure what the teaching guidelines were for home economics teachers in 1925, but by 1930, Ohio had a detailed curriculum guide, Home Economics: Course Study for High Schools in Vocational Home Economics Education.  If you want to see what was expected of women in 1930, check the digital version on this page.

Food teaching centered on nutrition–not fancy food.  The vitamin value of vegetables was not even realized until World War I–not even a decade before mother started teaching.  The recommended reading section of the study guide includes two books by the Boston Cooking School teacher and author, Fannie Farmer. Recipes are plain and seasonings are few.

The study guide is earnest and for the most part probably very helpful to a beginning teacher at a city school, but I doubt that the farm girls of Clark had any need for the etiquette of serving dinner–both with and without a maid; nor would Miss Anderson’s hotplate have accommodated the instructions to have each girl take responsibility for “planning, preparing and serving (with the aid of another member of the class) at least one luncheon of each type for a group of five or six people.” And “planning, preparation and serving a series of suppers (10-14) for the family. Two or three meals a week may be prepared if the project is covered while school is in session.”

The “types” of luncheons to be discussed, with focus for each day underlined were:

  • Vegetable plate luncheon, bread, beverage.
  • Cheese dish, vegetable salad, gelatin dessert, bread.
  • Meat or fish salad, parkerhouse rolls, fruit compote.
  • Croquettes, green vegetables, fruit salad, bread.
  • Meat, or meat extender, vegetable salad, bread, beverage, dessert.

Mother was learning her own ideas of what made the proper meal as she taught her classes. To the end of her life, she complained about any meal that did not include bread. She expected meat, vegetable, starch (potato or rice for instance), bread and coffee and dessert. If these farm families wanted bread, mother had to bake it. There were no bakeries, and commerical sliced bread was not yet available.

In the classroom, she could have boiled potatoes on the simple hotplate like she reported doing on a campfire on her summer road trips during this period. I can imagine her borrowing an iron skillet from Aunt Rhema, in whose house she was staying while she taught at Clark, and frying potatoes, or perhaps she made an omelet. Of course the girls could make a salad, but there was no refrigeration for leftovers, and anyway, fresh salads might have been a hard sell in those days of boiling  vegetables to death. That vegetable plate luncheon would have been an oddity for these meat-loving farm families. And fish? Probably not. In one way, they would have been extremely modern. All produce would have been locally grown and organic.

Teaching home economics in a rural two-room school in 1925 would have been quite a challenge– even if  teacher had more than a hotplate in the classroom.

Will you try any of the recipes in the Kraft  booklet?  For that matter, which side of the divide do you fall on–Miracle Whip dressing or Kraft mayonnaise?

52 Ancestors #35 Teacher’s School Photos -Harriette Anderson (Kaser)

Harriette Anderson (Kaser) 1906-2003

The back to school theme at the 52 Ancestors challenge was an invitation for me to dig into some of my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser’s photos from the start of her long teaching career.  Since she taught for a span of 42 years with time out for babies, moves out of state, etc. She had a large collection of class pictures, year book photos, and other memorabilia.  The pictures here show the beginning of her career.

Earlier I showed readers another collection of back to school photos–students from my grandmother’s time up to some cousins in the 1940s. You can see those school photos here.

Harriette Anderson

Harriette Anderson, 16, H.S. graduation 1923

When my mother graduated from high school in 1923, she was only sixteen (two months away from her 17th birthday). Her family moved to Columbus, Ohio, and she started to attend Ohio State University in the pre-med program, wanting to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. But after two years at Ohio State, she was contacted by the Superintendent of Holmes County Schools, who was desperately searching for teachers for the coming year.

The Anderson family’s move to Columbus had partly been motivated by the belief that her two brothers and her father would be able to get better jobs in Columbus, but things had not worked out that way. The family needed money, and she needed to save money for her medical school education.

So in 1925 when Clark, Ohio was looking for a high school teacher to join Principal Lee Fair and one other teacher in the two-room high school, the Holmes County Superintendent Frank Close asked Miss Anderson to take the Boxwell Test which would give her a teaching certificate. [All you needed was a high school graduation, good character and to pass the test. Think those requirements were easy? Follow the link to test yourself on a sample Boxwell Test.] She thought it would be a good way to make some money to finance her medical education. Little did she know that after her first nine months at Clark, she would dedicate her life to teaching, her grandmother’s career instead of her grandfather’s.

Harriette Anderson teacher

Clark, Ohio High School, the 1925-26 students. The 19-year-old teacher is on the far right.

At Clark, Miss Anderson was assigned to teach English, science, math, home economics and Latin. Home economics was a challenge since the only equipment was a hot plate.

“What I knew about algebra and Latin you could put in a bird’s eye,” she said in later life, admitting that she was more frightened than the students on the first day of school. After all, she had several boys in her class that not only towered over her, but were several years older. In order to hide the fact that she was shaking, she asked a student to write on the blackboard.

One day she took the students on a walk to collect plants and animal life for biology class.  “The boys put a little water snake in the pocket of my sweater. They were waiting for me to reach in my pocket. When I got it out and petted it and put it down they were so disappointed.” (Growing up with two brothers had its advantages!)

After two years at Killbuck, she happily took a job teaching in Killbuck HIgh school, where coaching basketball was added to her accomplishments. Now 21, at the larger school she was the Senior Class Advisor (no doubt the staff member closest in age to the seniors.)  In this picture, the school superintendent, Donald Eggar is on the left of the first row, and mother is next. She told me how she appreciated his kind mentorship as she began her career.

Harriette Anderson, teacher

The very young-looking Senior class advisor (21) at Killbuck High School for the class of 1928, is seated second from left.

She coached girl’s basketball starting her first year at Killbuck in 1927. There was no county league when she started. She refused to take the job unless the school board agreed to trade in the bloomer suits the girls were wearing for real uniforms. One of her students writes that they won because she told them to think, “Victory! Victory! Victory!”

Harriette Anderson, coach

Harriette Anderson (on the right) coach of Killbuck Women’s Basketball Team 1928

She was popular with the kids because she had a little Ford car with a rumble seat and all of them wanted to ride in her car.

Here are the Killbuck High School senior classes of 1930 and 1934, still including Superintendent Donald Eggar and teacher Harriette Anderson. I love those gorgeous white dresses, and marvel at how some of the very poor farm families in the area were able to come up with suits for the boys and beautiful dresses for the girls. My mother, who always loved beautiful clothes, wears a different dress in each of the year’s pictures.

Harriette Anderson teacher

Killlbuck High School Sr Class 1930-31 H.Anderson 5th from right middle row

 

 

School Days, Killbuck, 1934

Killbuck Graduating Class, 1934 Harriette Kaser Teacher, Donald Egger, Superintendent on top right.

Although I focus here on her very early career, Harriette Anderson Kaser had many more years of teaching. In addition to teaching at Killbuck, Harriette went back to Clark in 1936 for, I believe, two years (her letters indicate they did not pay on time) and in the 1950s taught at Killbuck, Glenmont and Millersburg, Ohio. In 1956 the family moved to HIlliard, Ohio outside Columbus and she taught there until her retirement in 1967. She always taught English, often Home Economics, and also taught whatever was needed, even substituting in music once although she admitted she could not carry a tune.

 In her nineties, she still got letters from former students, one addressing her as “Dear Coach.” One woman wrote to thank her for instilling a lifelong love of poetry.

Research Notes

Retirement System Service Credit Statement, dated 4-6-66 (Some years are missing here because she withdrew some of her credits early.)

  • She taught 1925/26 through 1929/30, 1932-33 through 1937/38
  • 1942-43
  • 1945-46
  • 1951-52, through 1965-66

Harriette Anderson Kaser application to teach made to Millersburg in 1954, she lists her education:

  • Ohio State University [starting in]1923—3 years: 107 credit hours (This was two full school years and several years of summer school)
  • Kent State 1933—1 year 85 credit hours
  • Bliss Business College, 1935 12 weeks
  • University of Chicago, 1931 8 credit hours

She lists her experience up until 1954 as

  • Killbuck High [beginning] 1927—177 months [total]
  • Clark High [beginning]1925—27 months [total]
  • Glenmont High [beginning]1953—9 months [total]

Identification of Students in  Photos

ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS WELCOME! Although my mother had identified many people, she forgot some names, and although she dated pictures, her dates turned out to be sometimes wrong.  With the help of people on a Killbuck Facebook group, I was able to straighten out some identifications and dates. Particular thanks to Bonnie Smail. I will add all the names here as I confirm them.

1925-1926 School photo Clark, Ohio, first year of teaching.

Harriette Anderson on far right. (No identification on students.)

1928 Killbuck H.S. Senior Class (Note: This would have been Harriette Kaser’s first year of teaching at Killbuck High School, after two years at Clark.)

Front row:

  • Donald Egger, Superintendent
  • Harriette Anderson, teacher
  • ______________, teacher
  • ______________, teacher?

Middle row:

  • Bessie Beller (Lowe)
  • Beulah Frazier (Arnold)
  • Marjora Garver (Rhode)
  • Florence Crosby (Patterson)
  • Garnet Bucklew (Zachman)
  • Ruth Teeling (Butler)
  • Ruth Uhl (Powell)
  • Lorna Carpenter (Neal)
  • Cleo Purdy (Andreas)
  • Pearl Mohler (Watts)
  • Helen Youngs

Back row:

  • Emmet Snow
  • Don Hunter
  • Earl Myers
  • Wilmer Patterson
  • Earl Russell

Note: the graduation list also has a Lester Hamontree, who does not appear to be in the picture.

1928 Holmes County Champions

  • Beulah Frazier (Arnold)
  • Ruth Chapman
  • Pearl Mohler (Watts)
  • Mary Rohskoph
  • Lorna Patterson (Myers)
  • Eleanor Burke
  • Ruth Uhl (Powell)
  • Garnet Bucklew (Zachman)
  • Harriette Anderson (Kaser), coach

1930 Killbuck H.S. Senior Class (Note: these are as she wrote them, except that I put parens around the women’s last names which she had added—presumably married names, and a couple of brackets with my own additions.)

Bottom Row:

  • Carl Hoxworth
  • Evelyn Smith (Tidball)
  • Rosabel Koons (Reno)
  • Edward J. Miller [teacher?]
  • Donald Egger (Superintendent)
  • Pauline Carpenter (Spears)
  • Leona Anderson
  • Paul Schuler Deceased (don’t know what year she wrote this.)

Middle Row:

  • Denver Middaugh
  • Mary Moore (Ackert?)
  • Garnet Froelich (Spurgeon)
  • Opal Purdy (Waltman)
  • Madeline Macky (Jackson)
  • Mabel Brumme
  • Harriette Anderson, teacher
  • Pauline Patterson
  • Cleo Teeling (Lowthers)
  • Ethel Ward
  • Robert Mullet

Back Row:

  • Ralph Anderson
  • Waldo Fites
  • John J. Purdy
  • Lloyd Crosby
  • Dwight Jackson
  • Harold Spurgeon
  • Leland Shrimplin
  • Edward Waltman
  • Jack [?] Purdy

1934 Killbuck H.S. Senior class (Note: HAK wrote names on front but not all are correct, and with help from Killbuck I added some women’s married names.)

Back Row:

  • Ted Muller
  • Micky McKee (Teacher, probably—not on class list)
  • Otto Lisle
  • Guy Miller Jr.
  • Dean Shrimplin
  • Dean Anderson
  • Staley Lanham
  • Harriette Anderson, teacher
  • Donald Egger, Superintendent

Bottom Row:

  • Dorothy Frazier (Klinger)
  • Zola Christopher (Kinsley)
  • Helen Low (Hoff)
  • Evelyn Beller (Kinsey)
  • Margaret McKelvey (Graham)
  • Virginia Buker (Uhl)
  • Bernice Black
  • Charmaine Allamong
  • Oneta Anderson (Way)

Family Favorite: Swiss Bake

The last recipe I posted was one for Swiss Croque Monsieur.  The following one, which I actually make more frequently, I think of as a Croque Monsieur in a dish.

One reader asked about side dishes to eat with Croque Monsieur, and I did not have any particular ones in mind, but would be happy to have suggestions if you have had Croque Monsieur in Switzerland.  What did you have as a side?

Of course there are many variations on Croque Monsieur, the most frequent being one that uses Bechamel sauce, which in the mid-west where I grew up was plain old white sauce.  That turns a crispy fried sandwich into a gooey over-the-top very filling dish. It is simply a matter of taste whether you add the Bechamel or not.

Swiss Bake

Swiss Bake before baking

My Croque Monsieur in a Dish is sort of like Bechamel, but lighter–no flour added–and airy like a souffle.  And this is one that could go into my “even Edie” file, I think. So easy to make that even non-cooks could tackle it. The recipe below, and the pictures, show a nine-inch dish, but when I had hungry teenage boys at home, I doubled or tripled it and used a 9 x 15 inch Pyrex dish or even a deeper casserole with more layers of bread (and longer baking).  It is very flexible, so there is no reason you could not just make it in an oven-proof bowl for one person with two thick slices of bread and reduced amounts of milk and eggs.

Swiss Bake

Serves 4
Prep time 10 hours
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 11 hours
Allergy Egg, Milk
Meal type Breakfast, Lunch, Main Dish
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold, Serve Hot

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 thick slices white bread
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 1/2 medium slices Gouda cheese (Or use Swiss cheese)
  • 1 cup grated Swiss Cheese (Emmenthaler preferred)
  • 1 cup ham (Diced. Or use thin slices.)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard (Or spread Dijon mustard on bread)
  • 1/4 stick butter (Plus more to grease pan)
  • pepper (to taste, white pepper preferred)

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter pan.
2. Cut half slice of bread in half again. Butter one side of each piece of bread
3. Fill bottom of pan with bread, buttered side up.
4. Sprinkle with dry mustard or spread with Dijon.
5. Place slices of Gouda on bread
6. Sprinkle half of ham pieces on top of cheese
7. Top with other slices of bread, butter side down, and press firmly.
8. Scatter grated cheese and remaining pieces of ham on top.
9. Beat eggs, add milk and pepper and beat again.
10. Pour egg and milk mixture over the bread slices. (Should come about half way up pan.) Put in oven for 45-60 minutes, until puffed up and slightly brown.