Beyond the Domestic Sphere: Home Economics and the Education of Women at Maryland State College, 1916–94
This essay presents a historiography of coeducation and home economics education at Maryland State College (now University of Maryland, College Park). Feminist scholars have recently begun to reevaluate the significance of home economics, the academic “functions and goals” (Holt 4) of homemaking, in the history of women’s education. The author uses course catalogs, yearbooks, and other archival sources to argue that the inconsistencies in word choice reflect disparate, classed, and gendered goals for women’s higher education. The language surrounding home economics suggests that it is both a scientific academic discipline and an inferior area of study that is appropriate only for women students. The author concludes that home economics can be understood as a progressive appeal to bring women into higher education and the sciences, even though it often reproduced and reinforced traditional gender roles.