HIST 6020, Spring 2020: Claiming Spaces
In 1890, fourteen-year-old Vendla Berntson became the first student and first woman to register for classes at the newly created Agricultural College of Utah (later Utah State University). In the 1890s, few women enrolled in college. It was even more rare to find women teaching classes and leading departments. The developing field of Home Economics, forerunner to today’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies, provided a space for women in higher education.
Historians are torn over the legacy of what became known as Home Economics. The field’s traditional emphasis on home, nutrition, and childrearing only furthered the cult of domesticity and separate spheres. Yet as one of the few avenues of professionalization open to women during the first half of the twentieth century, Home Economics “can no longer be dismissed as domesticity prescribed.” As Home Economics evolved and changed, so too did avenues of employment for women. Indeed, the field’s current emphasis on human development, family therapy, and early childhood are pointedly gender-neutral careers.
This exhibit charts these changes. It profiles early department leaders, women who brought scientific rigor to the discipline. Curricular changes over the past 130 years highlight women’s ever-evolving professional opportunities. Department activities and social clubs further emphasize these changes as does the history of the Family Life building itself. The college and department’s historic relationship to University Extension brought women across the state together in a close network of information and resources. Finally, an interactive timeline chronicles these important changes over time.
- Dr. Rebecca Andersen: Introduction
- Josee Butler & Hope Eggett: Women Leaders of the College of Family Life
- Ethan Frost: History of Family Life Building
- Alec Smitten: What's In A Name?
- Kelsey Foster: Student Activities - College of Family Life
- McKall Ruell: Partnership of the Extension Program and the College of Family Life
- Tell Joyner: Timeline