Home Economics as an Education in Material Relationships: What Curriculum Guides, 1956 and 1969, tell us About Girls, Women, Homes, and Dress

  • Author / Creator
    Jurgens, Amanda D
  • This research set out to explore the question, how do home economics curriculum guides for high-school courses present ideas of home and dress in connection to the lives of the girls and young women who would take these courses as students? Specifically, this research considers how a 1956 curriculum guide compares to one from 1969 with regard to how these guides instructed teachers in Saskatchewan to present the material phenomena of the home (which includes the actions of home making) and clothing/dress to their students. Sub-questions supported the main question of how the materiality of the home and of dress were presented in educational programming: these sub questions included “what ideas and ideals underpinned the ways that the home and dress were presented as topics for study; and what were some of the norms and expectations for student behaviour that were communicated by the guides?” To investigate and answer these questions, high school curriculum guides produced by the Saskatchewan Board of Education for teachers of home economics courses in 1956 and 1969, were selected and subjected to close reading and analysis. The guides were chosen due to an interest in how the wider social changes during this time period might be expressed in and through the home economics classroom. The guides were explored for what they stated to teachers about instructing girls and young women concerning the activities of home making, garment construction, and managing a dressed appearance. During the study, I was also interested in what the guides indicated about home economics as a field of practical activity and scholarly knowledge. While this research is focused on the two guides and how they informed the everyday, materialized activities (e.g., home care, sewing, and clothing choice) taught in Saskatchewan home economics classrooms in 1956 and 1969, this research can be understood in connection to important shifts that happened (especially for women) in wider Western society during this time period. One notable difference found between the two guides, that indicates a wider change in culture between 1956 and 1969, includes the 1956 guide’s focus on having the teachers locate their female students in the context of the home, while the 1969 guide presented teachers with a wider, more global sense of place for the students. Another significant difference between the documents was how the 1956 guide presented clothing mainly as a means for a young woman’s appearance to be appealing to others, while the 1969 guide emphasised aspects of the psychology of dress, which suggests that by 1969 clothing was thought of as a personal and social aspect of an individual woman. This research also illustrates important changes that happened to ideas of evaluation, with the 1956 guide focusing on how girls would learn to be pleasing to family members while the 1969 guide indicated that young women (particularly through the appearance of their dressed bodies) should expect to be judged by their peers. Finally, this research indicates how home economics as a field and as a topic of study at school changed from being very centred on the care and cleaning of the home and the practical skills of garment construction, to instead being understood and taught as an interdisciplinary field of practice that was engaged with wider scholarship and society.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.