Home Economics, Online

1,500-Book Archive Documents Scope of Home Ec Literature

Image from the HEARTH online archive. Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell University hide caption

Browse the HEARTH archive
itoggle caption Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell University

The concept of "home economics" covers a lot of territory: It encompasses how we cook, eat, clean, make clothing and furniture, raise children, grow vegetables or pretty much everything else involved with maintaining a home. It is a primary school subject — overwhelmingly directed at girls — but it is also a scholarly subject, with its own body of literature.

More than 1,500 books covering various facets of home economics are now accessible online, thanks to a Cornell University Library effort dubbed the HEARTH project. The books were published between 1850 and 1950 and selected by teams of scholars for their historical importance

Joan Jacobs Brumberg, a professor at Cornell's College of Human Ecology and a leader of the HEARTH effort, says this is the first time a collection of this scale and scope has been made available online. She spoke with NPR's Robert Siegel about the definition of home economics and the impact of feminism on the field.

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