December 3, Ellen Swallow Richards’ birthday, has become a true holiday for me! I call today FACS Founder Day because, as I hope you probably already know, Ellen pioneered the field of Home Economics. Each of us who practices the profession of Family and Consumer Science or Home Economics owes the very existence of our field to Ellen Swallow Richards.
Born in 1842, a time when opportunities for women were extremely limited, Ellen refused to follow the conventional path for women of her day. Blessed with a remarkable intellect, Ellen refused to be denied the education and opportunities she desired. Her tenacity and dedication to the application of scientific study to the improvement of everyday life make her accomplishments worthy of celebration! Here are just a few of Ellen’s most outstanding accomplishments.
- Ellen set up a program in the Boston public schools to prepare young women for education in the sciences.
- She established the first program in sanitary engineering at MIT.
- She established a women’s laboratory at MIT.
- Ellen established a scientific basis for home economics.
- She conducted groundbreaking studies into the adulteration of food establishing the framework for food safety standards.
- She conducted research into the arsenic content in wallpaper and fabrics, laying the groundwork for safety standards for these commonly used products.
- Ellen was one of the first scientists to advance the study and application of nutrition and healthy eating.
Throughout this #Save FACS blog series, we’ve been exploring actions FACS professionals can take to improve the image and profession of FACS. I’m going to suggest that the most important thing we can do is to ask ourselves one question, “What would Ellen do?”
Reflecting on the remarkable life of Ellen Swallow Richards should give us the courage and determination to save the profession she pioneered. Ellen steadfastly refused to be denied the education and opportunities she so richly deserved. We should follow her example and pursue the goal of advancing FACS with the same perseverance and tenacity.
So here’s my final #Save FACS suggestion! In the words of Ellen herself, “Keep thinking!”