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Home Economics at Oregon State


A black and white image of a sewing class.

1888 - The Chair in ''Household Economy and Hygiene" was approved for the "special benefit of female students" at Oregon State Agricultural College.  The Board of Regents set aside $400 to equip and maintain the new department.

1889 - Margaret Comstock Snell, M.D., was appointed Professor of Household Economy and Hygiene, which established the department. She served as its administrator from 1889-1908.  The new department was housed on the third floor of The College Building (now Community Hall).


Alpha Hall ("Girl's Hall"), circa 1890

1890 - Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) became a national leader in gender equality by being one of three land grant institutions in the nation to offer scientific courses to women.

1891 - The Household Economy and Hygiene program consisted of a three-year course (leading to a Bachelor of Household Economy degree) and four-year course (leading to a Bachelor of Letters degree).  The three-year Curriculum consisted of: Two years English, two years mathematics, history, physiology, botany, literature, language or zoology, plus cooking, sewing, chemistry of cooking, floriculture, dressmaking and millinery, home furnishing and kitchen gardening.

1892 - The first ten women graduate with degrees in Household Economy.

1894 - The course of study in Household Economy was extended from three to four years.  With one additional year of coursework, students could earn a Bachelors of Science degree. A two-year homemaker's course was also provided.

1895 -  Mrs. Mary Avery was added as second staff member.  The department also increased their facilities by adding the use of two rooms in girls' hall, Alpha Hall.  Preparatory program in household economy was abolished, but the two-year course remained.

1896 - The name changed to "Department of Household Science."

1897 - Four-year course led to Bachelor of Household Science degree, while students could continue on for a Master of Household Science in any area.  Three members were on staff with addition of Carrie A. Lyford (BHEc. 1896, BL 1897).

1899 - Masters of Science became only masters degree offered in the department.  Surpassed total of 100 who had received bachelors degree.


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

1907 - The Department of Household Science moved into basement of the newly opened Waldo Hall, which served as the girls dormitory on campus.

1908 - "Department of Household Science" became "School of Domestic Science and Art."  The new school was administered by a dean and contained two departments: "Domestic Science" and "Domestic Art."

Courses in Home Economics and House Inspection were added.

College professors, including those from Domestic Science and Domestic Art, traveled throughout Oregon giving lectures from railroad cars provided by the Southern Pacific and the Oregon Railway and Navigation railroad companies.

Juliet Greer, from Pratt Institute, became dean.  She brought four recent graduates of Pratt Institute with her as instructors.  She served from 1908 to 1911.  

Extension Demonstration Train1909 - The first Master of Science degree was awarded in ''Domestic Science" to Bertha Davis with a thesis entitled "Bacterial Problems in the Home."  She went on to serve as an instructor in the department.

At this time, although Domestic Science laboratories were located in Waldo Hall, the Department of Domestic Art was housed on the second floor of the Agronomy Building (now Strand Agricultural Hall).


Female students and children at "Practice House" (Withycombe House)

1911 - Ava B. Milam joined the staff as head of the Department of Domestic Science.  She served from 1911 to 1924 (from 1917-1924 she served concurrently as dean).

Helen Bryce Brooks named head of the Department of Domestic Art.  She served from 1911 to 1917.

Mrs. Henrietta Calvin was appointed Dean of the School, although did not arrive on campus to serve until 1912.

1912 - Mrs. Henrietta Calvin began service as Dean.  She served form 1912 to 1915.

School staff was composed of 9 teachers.

Household Physics was first listed as a course.

1913 - Two four-year curricula listed, Domestic Science and Domestic Art.

One graduate course in Domestic Science listed for first time.

1914 - The original unit of Home Economics Building was erected (east wing of present Milam Hall).

"School of Domestic Science and Art" changes names again, becoming the "School of Home Economics."

The description of the four-year program leading to Bachelor of Science degree states: "While the first three years of all the courses are identical, opportunity is given during the senior year to specialize in any one of four fields, namely, Domestic Science, Domestic Art, Home Administration, and Institutional Management."

The first thesis for a M.S. degree based on experimental work was completed.  First research in Home Economics (foods) which led to an Experiment Station Bulletin 124, "Comparative Cooking Qualities of Some of the Common Varieties of Apples Grown in Oregon" by Ava B. Milam and Harriet B. Gardner (1915).

The Smith-Lever Law, which provided extension work in agriculture and home economics, was signed into law on May 8.

The Home Economics lunch room at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, California1915 - School functioned under administration of a committee composed of dean of women (Mary Eliza Fawcett), chairman, and heads of Domestic Science (Ava B. Milam) and Domestic Art (Helen B. Brooks) for two years, 1915-1917.

The School set up and managed a tearoom at the San Francisco Worlds Fair for ten months at the request of the Oregon Commission for the Panama Pacific International Exposition. $1000 of profits were contributed to College Loan Fund.  "...home economics students under Ava Milam ran the dining room of the Oregon Building during the 1915 San Francisco World's Fair. Traveling down in teams for six-week stints over the 288 days of the fair, they made enough to pay their own transportation, contribute to the college student loan fund, and to furnish another practicum, the first home management house."

1916 - For the first time, courses were grouped in the catalogue by area: Domestic Science, Domestic Art, Home Administration, Institutional Management, Education, and Applied Design within the framework of the two departments of "Domestic Science" and "Domestic Art."

First "Practice House," Withycombe House, was established.  A. Grace Johnson joined staff as its first supervisor and furniture was purchased for house from additional $700 profit from Panama Pacific International Exposition.

Total bachelor degrees awarded exceeded 500.

1917 - In addition to four-year courses, a two-year course for dietitians was listed.

Ava B. Milam appointed Dean of Home Economics.  She served from 1917 to 1950.

Helen Lee Davis appointed head of Domestic Art.  She served from 1917 to 1930.

The first home management house, Withycombe House, opened.

A tearoom, which doubled as a laboratory for Institutional Management, was started in house near campus with Mary Koll as the instructor.

1918 - The Departments of "Domestic Science" and "Domestic Art" were renamed ''Household Science" and ''Household Art," respectively.  Household Administration was also listed as department.  Courses were grouped as Household Science, Household Art, Household Administration, Institutional Management, Applied Design, and Industrial Education Group. Home Economics Education is first identified in the catalogue as a department in the School of Vocational Education.

A. Grace Johnson was appointed head of Household Administration.  She served from 1918 to 1933.

1919 - Degree Curricula are identified in catalogue as (a) Professional Curriculum and (b) General Curriculum. One-year dietitian and one-year Homemakers curricula also listed.

Oregon Agricultural College changed from semester to term basis.

Beginning of Infant care in "Practice House."

Undergraduate enrollment exceeded 400.