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Home Economics at Oregon State

Where did home economics take place on campus?

Formal gardens on the west side of 26th street

There are a number of ways to envision the practice of home economics on the Oregon State campus, including photographs, manuscripts, oral histories, and maps (e.g. Historical Maps of Oregon State University).  For example, this 1932 parcel map lists Withycombe, Kent, and Covell houses, and the lot where the nursery school would be built in 1926.  Other maps are available in our physical collections and can be found in other items, like the General Catalog. 

Waldo Hall

Waldo Hall was once the Women's Dormitory. It was designed by Albany architect Charles Burggraf.

Constructed in 1907, and opened in the fall of that year, Waldo Hall was designed by Albany, Oregon architect Charles Burggraf.  It originally contained 115 dormitory rooms and living quarters for single female faculty members.  Waldo Hall also housed classrooms and offices for the domestic science department.  In 1965 it was renovated and began being used for additional departmental and faculty offices as well as classrooms.  Waldo Hall was named for Clara Humason Waldo (1858 to 1933), the first woman in Oregon to be named to the Board of Regents for a state institution of higher education.  In 1911 she worked as the Dean of Extension in domestic science at Oregon Agricultural College with no compensation and received an honorary doctorate of science from the college in 1923. 

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Milam Hall

Home Economics Building (Milam Hall), April 1946

Originally the Home Economics Buildings, Milam Hall is one of architect John Bennes’ earliest designs for Oregon State's campus.  Its core portion was constructed in 1913 for the School of Domestic Science, which later became known the School of Home Economics.  Significant additions were added to the building in 1920 and 1952.  Along with classrooms and labs, from 1917 to 1928 (when it was supplanted by the new Memorial Union) institution management students opened a 300-seat tearoom in the center wing of Milam Hall.  The Home Economics Building was rededicated as Milam Hall in 1976 to honor the contributions of Ava B. Milam, who was a leading feminist of the era and Dean of the School of Home Economics from 1917 to 1950.

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Home Management Houses

The Withycombe House was donated to Oregon Agricultural College and later used as a Home Management House located at 2014 Monroe Street.  Opened in 1916, Withycombe House served as the first immersive laboratory for homemaking at Oregon State.   The house was complete with foster babies to fully help prepare female students for their future roles as homemakers, teachers, and administrators.  As the program expanded, so did the need for additional houses.

Withycombe House was located at 2014 Monroe Street.

Additional online resources concerning Withycombe House can be found by searching:

Additional online resources concerning Kent House can be found by searching:

Kent HouseAdditional online resources concerning Dolan House can be found by searching:

Additional online resources concerning Covell House can be found by searching:

Nursery Schools

OSC Home Economics Nursery School

Covell House nursery was located at 20th and Monroe Streets and was the first nursery School operated by the School of Home Economics.  The nursery opened in 1926, while the Orchard Street Child Development Laboratory opened in 1939, and Park Terrace in 1945.  These schools were located in close proximity to Milam and Snell (now Ballard Extension) Halls, and Withycombe and Kent Houses.  The two labs are still running today, training professionals in child development and early childhood education at the Hallie Ford Center and Mercedes A. Bates Family Study Center.

Additional online resources can be found by searching:

KOAC: Home Economics on the Radio

Roxie Fredrickson Hawlett (BS 1945) interviews Eleanor Wilkins during the 60th Anniversary of the School of Home Economics.

The KOAC radio station was established in 1923 and the television station in 1957. Both became part of Oregon Public Broadcasting when it was established in 1981.

Additional online resources can be found by searching:

  • "KOAC" on Oregon Digital
  • "KOAC" on our website
  • "KOAC" on Scholar's Archive 

Beyond Campus: Extension Service

Home Economics Faculty: Jean Roth, Naurine McCormick, Alberta Johnston, and Esther Taskerud. Alberta Johnston was a faculty member for the Extension Service from 1963-1990. Starting as a Home Management Specialist in 1963, Johnston eventually became the Deputy Director of the Extension Service in 1987. Her focus was home economics. Esther Taskerud became the Assistant State 4-H Club Leader in November of 1947. Taskerud later served as the head of Home Economics from 1963-1969, retiring in 1970.

As early as 1911, the year of Ava Milam's arrival, the Board of Regents of the college had established the Oregon Extension Service to administer off-campus educational programs around the state.  These women traveled by horse or train or car with trunks full of equipment and supplies to share new technologies and processes with people all over the state.

When the Smith-Lever Act established the Cooperative Extension Service to "consist of the giving of instruction and practical demonstrations in agricultural and home economics and subjects relating thereto to persons not attending or residents in [land grant] colleges" at a national level in 1914, the Oregon home economists were already at work.  

As the circumstances of life shifted, so did the work of the Extension Service agents.  For instance, during the Depression, Extension agents taught family survival skills, while during the war years they helped families ration ingredients to aid the national defense.

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