U of S celebrates 100 years of home economics

Immigration and western expansion in Canada brought pioneer families to isolated farms, many with little or no farming experience. Safe water, food production and preservation were critical issues along with hygiene, sanitation, disease and food availability.

Home economics began in the late 1800s in response to worldwide change and development. The agrarian way of life that had provided food, clothing and shelter to generations shifted to an industrialized society that resulted in large-scale migration to cities and abroad.

Adelaide Hoodless of Canada and Ellen Richards of the United States, who were among the founders of home economics, believed that the emerging sciences of germs, bacteria, sanitation and nutrition needed to be available to women to ensure family health and safety.

Richards also recognized that the family was where nurturing, discipline and values were modelled and taught to children, and that the economy of the home, the management of the financial, material, time and energy resources, affect the stability and comfort of the family and society as a whole.

At the University of Saskatchewan, formal instruction in home economics began in 1916.

Ethel Rutter started teaching degree classes in household science at the University of Saskatchewan in 1917. She described the equipment in the original foods laboratory as being two New Perfection coal oil stoves, one sink, a small ice refrigerator, two large cupboards and Bunsen burners under metal screening for top of the stove cookery. | College of Home Economic Archives photo

“The household science department became a school in 1928, a college in 1942 and in 1952 was renamed the College of Home Economics.

“The college was disestablished in 1990, with the home economics teaching area continuing in the College of Education and the nutrition program in the College of Pharmacy, re-named the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition in 1995,” reports the university’s website, homeeconomics.usask.ca.

Currently the home economic education certificate is only offered in Prince Albert through the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program.

This year, the former College of Home Economics will be part of the university’s alumni celebrations May 18-21.

Home economics is a multi faceted profession concerned with all aspects of daily living, including interpersonal relationships, financial management, consumerism, food, nutrition, clothing, textiles, housing and design.

The knowledge from the natural and social sciences are linked with the arts to assist individuals and families enrich their daily lives.

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The careers of its graduates illustrate the diversity of the degree and its application and influence through the years.

Through the Consumer Association of Canada, Helen advocated for better labelling of food products. She helped establish Saskatoon’s Big Sister Association and the Crisis Intervention Services.

Helen Hughes, 1954

As a member of Saskatoon City Council, she organized and chaired the Community Liaison Committee working with Metis, First Nations and non-native people to address the problems of housing, health, recreation, employment, justice, education and cross-cultural understanding in an urban city.

She helped found the Native Survival School, (Oskayak High School), dedicated to providing a safe and stable environment to enable students to experience academic success and personal healing. She served on the Victoria City Council for 18 years, worked in the Office of the Ombudsman and the B.C. Council of Human Rights.

Ann Colley, 1964

Ann worked with Indigenous women on 44 reserves training local instructors in short courses in home management, nutrition, food preparation, money management, knitting and sewing. These instructors then taught more than 1,700. She also taught consumer education, nutrition, home management, family life education, clothing and textiles and family money management courses for homemakers’ and 4-H clubs, women’s institutes and agricultural societies.

She initiated and produced the university’s first television series on major issues of land use, transportation and energy in 1977. During retirement, she took a two-year assignment in Botswana, to teach native women nutrition, sewing, leadership, home and money management.

Elizabeth Dowdeswell, 1966

She was a home economics teacher in Swift Current, Sask., later working in both the provincial and federal governments. She was assistant deputy minister at Environment Canada with responsibility for the Atmospheric Environment Service and negotiated the Framework Convention on Climate Change. She led a public inquiry into Canada’s unemployment benefits program and federal water policy.

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She led the United Nations Environment Program in Nairobi, Kenya, at the rank of under-secretary-general. She is the founding president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.

She is currently the lieutenant governor of Ontario.

Linda Braun, 1976

Linda has worked in the agri-food industry for almost 40 years promoting many Saskatchewan food products, including pork, pulse crops and flax.

She was instrumental in obtaining Health Canada’s approval of a health claim for flaxseed and has done research on the use of flax fibre. Linda is a co-founder of the CropSphere Conference.

Barb Cox-Lloyd, 1978

She is the chief executive officer for Habitat for Humanity Saskatoon. She organizes volunteers and community partners to build affordable housing to help break the cycle of poverty.

Dr. Wendy Dahl, 1988

The assistant professor in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at the University of Florida has done research on the role of dietary and functional fibre in medical nutrition therapy related to kidney disease, and food and nutrition issues of the frail elderly.

For more information on alumni celebrations, contact: andy.collin@usask.ca.

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Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.