Happy Homemakers in Training

vintage illustration Sat Eve Post high school home economics class

Illustration Saturday Evening Post Feb 16 1957 Steve Dohanos illustrator

Before Domestic Diva Martha Stewart instructed American women in how to be the perfect homemaker, high school girls were required to take Home Economic classes.

Since every girl had dreams off being the perfect homemaker, it was perfectly natural to prepare these girls for the duties of married life. And High schools across the nation willingly obliged with essential life training classes as folding laundry, making hospital corners, setting a gracious table and mastering the perfect flaky biscuit.

Two back to back Saturday Evening Post covers from February 1957 perfectly illustrate that ideal of the life that lay ahead for a well brought up mid-century girl.

Magazine Sat Eve Post 57 cover illustration Streve Dohanos

Cover illustration Steve Dohanos Saturday Evening Post Feb 16 1957

Cover illustration Saturday Evening Post Feb 16 1957

The text that accompanies the illustration by Steve Dohanos in this Feb 16, 1957 cover explains :

“Every girl should study the art of gracious homemaking, but as there is little time for this at home on account of take home schoolwork, time is set aside for it in school.”

“There, a girl learns how to bake an upside down cake that doesn’t turn out right side up, how to create a dress which doesn’t resemble a gunny sack, and how to make a table setting fit for a king or a husband. Illustrator Steve Dohanos has a theory that girls should not only be pretty but also pretty good cooks.”

magazine cover sat Evening Post vintage illustration 1950s

Saturday Evening Post Illustration George Hughes Feb. 9,1957

The description for the previous weeks cover illustration  by George Hughes speaks volumes:

“It is the duty of every girl to talk to boys on the telephone, kindle romantic sentiments, round-up potential husbands and thus help perpetuate the race by assuring that by and by she will become a homemaker.

Therefore it is comforting to see Sister applying herself earnestly to homework. Of course she should get in some bookwork, too; math for instance, is useful in budgeting, so that two can live as cheaply as-er-possible.

Well, she’ll do alright, for American girls are pretty wonderful at getting good grades in both education and romance”

Not that any matrimonial minded girl had to be talked into taking Home Ec, but in 1955  an educational film was produced entitled “Why Study Home Economics” Made in Lawrence Kansas, it was intended for distribution to High School students.

It tells the story of an adolescent girl Janice who decides whether or not to take home economics. When Janice is asked why she is interested in Home Economics she responds; “If I’m going to be a housewife for the rest of my life, I want to know what I’m doing!”

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  1. sarfa2012

    That educational film you provided is a laugh a minute. I can’t stop watching it over and over again. Your blogs are great! Keep them coming.


  2. I am really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one today..


    • Thanks Robby, I’m so glad you are enjoying my blog. As an illustrator and writer it’s been a great format to express myself. The theme is by WP Showers and I have customized it. They have a great selection of free themes if you are interested.


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  6. sdaven5191

    Saw that video a while back in previous searches on this subject. It’s funny in terms of today, but also sad in terms of the confusion it creates in terms of the times in which it was presented. There’s no reason to expect that every single girl back then should have had aspirations in only one direction by then, considering what their mothers, aunts and perhaps even grandmothers went through during the years of conflict of World War II, and in a lesser sense during the more recent years of the Korean Conflict. It may have been society’s unfair double standard to push women out of their homes, where they had previously been told was their one and only domain, and out into the working world of the military industrial complex, the Military itself, and the countless unpaid volunteer programs in which they spent the majority of their time in order to win those wars. And without which it’s possible we would not have been able to do so at all. After all, who else was going to do all that work while the men went off to fight? Who would have kept the military machinery rolling along as smoothly as it had, or kept the wounded soldiers from dying in much larger percentages without the Red Cross and the Army and Navy nurses? Now, they take the women, after the war has been won, yank the women back by the scruff of the neck, throw them out with their pink slips to go back to the kitchen, and tell not only them, but their daughters, nieces, younger sisters and even granddaughters that the kitchen and the bedroom are the only places they are fit for? Even as a Baby Boomer myself, a child of the Women’s Lib era, this not only never made any sense at all to me, but has always made me downright angry. I vowed never to become the victim of such lack of options in my own life, or to let that happen to my children. Options were always sought, and I fought back when they were unfairly denied.
    No wonder this girl is confused. And that she is browbeaten into accepting only one opportunity for her life is nothing short of criminal. She could have been a great wife and mom if that’s what she decided to seek for herself. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. But when presented as one’s only option, it is nothing else but wrong. She could also have been a great doctor, or scientist, or educator, or short order cook ~ as long as it’s her choice. There is only one “choice” given here ~ take it or take it. Sad. Even the majority of women who were involved in stereotypically “female” professions ~ teaching, nursing, secretarial, etc ~ were single most if not all their lives. That was the only other “option” ever provided. You can bake your cake, but you can’t eat it too.


  7. MermaidD

    Studying Home Economics will help you “in developing democratic practices in the home”. LOL!


  8. Mara Bearden

    Good article. It shows the expectations of females during the 50’s. Wow, have things changed.


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