Archive for February, 2012

Research Log #4

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

This week, I finished looking through the course catalogs and also attempted to contact two of the alumnae for possible interviews to further our research. The course catalog browsing went much better than the interview attempt as unfortunately neither of the women I called answered the phone nor did they have answering machines. I sent them both emails and will continue to call and try to schedule interviews.

Luckily the catalogs provided more useful information in the short term. The first catalog I looked at was from 1956-57 and it was mostly the same as the years before: same majors offered, same general courses available, same graduation requirements. The Commerce/Secretarial classes were back again, suggesting that the trial runs from the past 3 years were successful and the program was decided to be worthwhile. However they were still the same 4 classes as before, which seems to indicate that the skills from the classes weren’t continually evolving (Catalog XLIII).

The same couldn’t be said for the Home Economics department. By 1957 the department had further subdivided several existing classes; for example, the class formerly known as “Problems in Nutrition and Diet in Disease” was now being offered as “Nutrition and Dietetics” and “Diet Therapy” (Catalog XLIII). Other classes were technically removed from the catalog, but were replaced by basically the same material offered under a different name with minor adjustments. The class on industrial-scale food preparation was replaced with “Quantity Cookery” which effectively taught the same skills as the first class, but with more emphasis on the needs of an industrial kitchen and its upkeep.

There were few changes in the catalog between 1957 and 1958; all of the same courses were offered, but the Home Economics’ section layout was drastically changed. Prior to the 1957-58 catalog, the Home Economics department offered charts with yearly break-downs of what classes students should take in order to graduate in their specialty. But in 1957-58, the charts had been removed and the students were required to pick their classes with their instructor instead (Catalog XLIV).

Finally in 1958-59 the last notable changed happened. In Home Economics, “Home Management Economics” was cur from the department’s offerings while a class called “Modern Marriage” was added. Modern Marriage taught the “concepts of the development of modern family life [and] the expanding, contracting and interaction dynamics of families in changing times” (Catalog XLV). There was also a major addition of student-accessible technology in this catalog. Two foreign language labs had been installed for French and Spanish students with the latest equipment like tape recorders, record players, individual listening stations and something called Sound-scribers (XLV). This seems to indicate a shifting focus on giving students access to technology in departments other than the hard sciences and may perhaps reflect the spread of fairly-inexpensive equipment in a variety of fields.

Research Log #3

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

For this week’s research, I looked at the next 3 years of course catalogs, 1954-1956. I continued to look at the Home Economics department, hoping to establish a pattern across the decade of classes offered; however, based on our group discussion on Thursday, I also began to look through the entire catalog for references to technology in the classroom and for any classes that could be considered “machine classes”, ones that focus on mechanical skills or the use of technology.

I found several interesting things about these two areas of emphasis. First I noticed that there were very few classes listed in any department that explicitly mentioned anything related to mechanics or technology. Some of the physics department’s offerings might have touched on those topics, but the actual class listings didn’t refer outright to using technology or mechanics in the classroom; they were usually more along the lines of “Electricity and Magnetism.” It was in fact the two “Economics” departments, Business Administration and Home Economics, that mentioned any classes that fit the mechanical category. Home Ec. 333, Household Equipment, is written up: “problems in the selection, use and care of electrical and non-electrical household equipment. Evaluation of lighting and wiring plans” (Catalog XLI, 1954-1955). In the 1955-1956 catalog, Home Ec. 333 had been expanded to include gas equipment and the “development and evaluation of an individual’s home kitchen” (XLII). This suggests an increasing emphasis on mechanical skills that related directly to the domestic sphere; the fee of $7.50 (the most expensive in the department) seems to show that students actually used some of the equipment they learned about in class.

The other department that offered explicitly stated mechanical classes was the Economics and Business Administration department. Four classes were offered under the heading of “Commerce”, which taught students basic and intermediate skills in shorthand, typewriting and gave them “a working knowledge of dictating and transcribing machines, duplicating devices…calculating machines and miscellaneous office appliances” (Catalog XLI). The Commerce classes were not offered in 1955-56, but reappeared in 56-57, so they might have been in a sort of trial phase at the time. Both of these offerings seem to suggest that more domestic and feminine mechanical skills were more commonly accepted and provided better selling points for prospective students and their families than some of the technology and mechanical work that happen in somewhere like the Physics department, which isn’t directly mentioned. Perhaps this is because it was assumed that a student would recognize that they would be using technology in a class like that and the school didn’t need to directly tell them.

Group Discussion results

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Today after the guest speaker, we planned out what sort of content we’d like for our website to cover as well as what kind of format we think would work well. We hope to cover topics like what classes were available and popular, what kind of majors were offered and how many people graduated with these degrees and the changes in the majors between then and now. We’d also like to include information on the different departments and department heads and discuss their significance to the university at the time.

We plan on covering the classroom experience by discussion the various styles of class offered (lecture, machine classes and what we’re terming “feminine arts”: visual and performing arts, home economics, etc). Some space will be devoted to technology in the form of overall classroom technology and the so-called “machine classes” that taught students mechanical skills like electrical wiring and machine maintenance.

Finally we’d like to include some biographical sections with a working theme of “memories from the classroom”, where we present some of the interviews from alumnae. We’ll hopefully provide excerpts from their interviews and some biographical information about them during their time at MWC taken from their recollections and on-campus publications like the Battlefield and the Bullet.

Our website itself will feature plenty of photographs to accompany the text. We’re currently working on selecting a theme that will allow our site to showcase images from the 1950s to help underscore our research and provide a deeper connection to the students and their classroom experience.

Class Discussion 2/9

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

In the readings for this week, I was particularly struck by the way the statement in Linda Gordon’s essay Black and White Visions of Welfare that “black women [in comparison to white women] were more focused on their own kind” (Unequal Sisters, pg 232), paralleled with Mamie Fields’ recollections in Modern American Women. Fields recalls her first days as a schoolteacher in rural South Carolina and the difficulties she faced working closely with her students to get the school into working order. She spoke of a very close connection with the children, working to clear the schoolyard and kill the snakes in the schoolroom, and later working with the parents to convince them to bring their children to school regularly. Gordon writes of the African American emphasis on education as one of the community’s chief concerns and describes the lack of distance between the helpers and the helped (US, 232). Although not one of the more traditional affluent African American welfare reformers, Fields recalls situations that seem to reaffirm Gordon’s statement. I found this to be an interesting cross-over between the readings.

Research Log #2

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

In continuing my research with the course catalogs, I focused this week on the bulletins from 1950-1954, specifically looking at the graduation requirements for the four different types of Bachelor’s degrees offered during that time: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Home Economics and Bachelor of Science in Health, Physical Education and Recreation. At the core of each degree was an identical set of core requirements that had to be achieved in addition to major specific classes, very similar to the general education requirements we use today. However, unlike the system we now use, the requirements were classified by academic discipline rather than over-arching theme. To get a BA, students had to complete 12 English credits, 12 foreign language, 6 history, and 8 natural science, plus 6 credits from math or fine arts, 6 from political science, sociology, philosophy, psychology or economics, and 6 from health or physical education. These 56 credits were added to 36 major required credits and 34 elective credits, totaling 126 overall, 6 more than the minimum number needed to graduate today (MWC Bulletin XXXVII, 1950-1951). All Bachelor of Science programs had virtually identical requirements to the BA, but they required the foreign language be modern, preferably French or German, and that math be selected over fine arts.

After looking at the graduation requirements, I looked at the specific majors and classes that were offered. Students could major in Art, Biology, Chemistry, Dramatic Arts and Speech (an early version of a theater major), Economics and Business Administration, English, French, German, History, Latin, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Spanish or Sociology. There were also interdepartmental degrees in Pre-Medical Science, American Ideals and Institutions (an early American Studies) and Early Humanities. Education, geology, physics, astronomy and home economics classes were also offered along with a variety of languages, like Russian and Portuguese.

However, throughout the 1950-1951 catalog, I noticed that despite some changes in title, almost all of the degrees offered have persisted to the current day, with only one exception: Home Economics. I decided to focus my attention on this major for several reasons, mainly because I feel that we can learn the most about the different values of the time by examining the one degree that the modern university has deemed no longer relevant. So I looked at the individual classes offered for the Home Economics department to see what subjects went into the major. There were only 12 classes listed for 1950-1951 and included topics like Textiles and Clothing, Foods and Nutrition and Home Management and Economics. Many of these classes promised to teach the basics of how to run a home, care for a family and operate on a budget, and many included fees, presumably to cover the costs of materials for in-class demonstrations and practice (pg 101-102, Bulletin XXXVII).

In the next bulletin from 1951-1952, the Home Economics major had nearly doubled in the number of classes offered. “Textiles and Clothing” had been expanded into Clothing Selection, Personal Clothing, Family Clothing and Dress Design, and many of the earlier classes have been similarly sub-divided. Only three entirely new classes are present: Household Equipment, Home Management Residence and Family Relations. The major also requires students to specialize in a sub-category: Food and Nutrition, Clothing and Textiles, Family Life or Teaching Vocational Home Economics (pg 109-114, Bulletin XXXVIII). This suggests that an increased demand within the field required there to be more specialized classes to better educate students within their specialty. This is supported by the number of students graduating with a BS in Home Economics; 5  graduated with the degree in 1950 but by 1953 the number had doubled to 10 graduates. (Bulletin XXXVII, Bulletin XL)