History Is Lunch: Danielle Dreilinger, “The Secret History of Home Economics”

Two Mississippi Museums | 222 North Street, Jackson, Mississippi, 39201

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Join the Mississippi Department of Archives & History on site at the Two Mississippi Museums at noon on Wednesday, February 22, for History Is Lunch (or watch the livestream) when Danielle Dreilinger will discuss her book The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live.
A common conception of home economics might feature images of lopsided hand-sewn pillows or recipes gone awry. But the origins of the field are a story of the revolutionary science of better living. In the twentieth century, home ec reduced domestic work that fell to women and provided many with jobs as professors, engineers, chemists, and businesspeople.
“The field of home economics was founded by members of that first generation of women to go to college,” said Dreilinger. “One central figure was Margaret Murray Washington, born in Macon, Mississippi in the 1860s, who earned her bachelor’s degree, ran home economics at Tuskegee, and advocated for improving the African American home.”
Home economics followed the currents of the country’s culture even as it helped shape them. Dreilinger chronicles the racism within the movement along with the strides made by women of color who were leaders and innovators. She also looks at the personal lives of home economics’ women, as they chose to be single, share lives with other women, or try for egalitarian marriages.
Danielle Dreilinger is an American South storytelling reporter for Gannett/USA Today Network. Before moving to Durham, N.C., in 2021, she was a 2018 Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan and worked for The Times-Picayune, WGBH News and The Boston Globe. Dreilinger’s work has appeared in publications ranging from The Atlantic to Ploughshares to No Depression. She earned her BA in English from Columbia University. The Secret History of Home Economics is her first book. Copies of The Secret History of Home Economics will be for sale at the program.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History explores different aspects of the state’s past. The hour-long programs are held in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building at 222 North Street in Jackson and livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.
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