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What is Home Economics? The term "home economics" may call up stereotypical images of girls busily sewing and cooking in 1950s classrooms, images that have led many people to view this field as fundamentally narrow, dull, and socially conservative. In the 1960s and 1970s, the women's movement was often critical of home economics, seeing it as a discipline that worked to restrict girls and women to traditional domestic and maternal roles.

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Home economics at Cornell began as part of the Extension Service in 1900, with the Farmers’ Wives Reading Course, supported by Liberty Hyde Bailey (Dean of the College of Agriculture) and implemented by Martha Van Rensselaer. In 1903-1904, Van Rensselaer, Bailey, and Anna Botsford Comstock gave three courses within the College of Agriculture relating to home and family life. In 1907, Bailey decided to create a Department of Home Economics, headed by Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose, who were appointed to professorships (the first for women at Cornell) in 1911. The department became a school in 1919, and, in 1925, the first state-chartered College of Home Economics in the country. Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose were named co-directors.

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