Home Work

My mother and aunt got degrees in home ec. It included science – necessary for balanced meals and understanding fabric. The science wasn’t theoretical, but practical and solid – a good deal more than later generations (like me and my children) took. My father ‘s degree was in civil engineering. Those were popular majors for farm kids at land grant colleges in the thirties. And a good thing it was, too.

Given the dialogue about Ferguson on Kennedy’s post, some might be interested in his discussion of Singer. He spends a lot of time on fabric and clothes – a demand awakened in the nineteenth century and served by a vast new industry. He compares Singer to Marx; neither was an exemplary family man (Singer had 24 children by 5 women and was charged with bigamy); both were Jewish. Actually it seems a fairly strained comparison that can be made of many. I think he just wanted to conclude his paragraph with this: “And, like Marx, he [Singer] changed the world – though, unlike Marx, for the better.” The hundred million dead – ah, that is the one way. 4-H is the other.

I love the juxtaposition – my sister and I have Singer portables that survived WWII, and later times when my mother sewed almost everything we wore. His contrast reverberates: land grant colleges turning out vets and county agents versus Left Bank coffee houses turning out jaded revolutionaries; it is work versus talk about workers, responsibility versus Monday morning quarterbacking, it is the center of a family as it grows around that machine, turning out shirts and dresses and baby clothes. It’s life rather than talking about life.

8 thoughts on “Home Work”

  1. Some think it is romantic to study Marx, Lenin, Che, and the French revolution, especially if one wants to run a revolution and get lots.

    The world becomes much more manageable when the human race is divided into classes. Solutions are so easy when all that is required is chopping off the heads of one class and then (selflessly) leading the peasants and workers to paradise (killing counter-revolutionaries as you go). This idea of class struggle has inspired many video games, movies, novels and actual revolutions.

    Home Ec and civil engineering are too practical to be romantic. And because the death toll caused by Home Ec is so low (as compared to revolutions), the Home Ec course lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

    There aren’t too many video games based on Home Ec or building a pond on the farm.

  2. I believe Marx was raised Lutheran and went through an intense religious period as a young teen. I assume his family was culturally Jewish, but to what extent I don’t know.

  3. There was some (male) Congressional candidate….I *think* he was Republican…who was saying he had a degree in Economics and it turned out to be Home Economics. My instantaneous reaction was, “Well, it would be nice to have some CongressCreatures who know how to do *something*.”

  4. Gray Eagle…”Home Ec and civil engineering are too practical to be romantic.”

    I think civil engineering was actually considered quite romantic, up through maybe the late 1950s.

    See comments by the British actress Fanny Kemble about meeting the railroad-builder George Stephenson, circa 1830:


    …kind of like what a similarly-intelligent and perceptive actress today (assuming you could find one) might have said about Steve Jobs.

  5. Chuck – Here’s what Wikipedia says about that part of Marx’s background:

    “Heinrich Marx converted to Lutheran Protestantism in 1816 or 1817 in order to continue practicing law after the Prussian edict denying Jews to the bar. Karl was born in 1818 and baptized in 1824, but his mother, Henriette, did not convert until 1825, when Karl was seven. There is no evidence that the Marx family actually embraced Lutheranism, although there is no evidence that they were practicing Jews. Marx identified himself as an atheist.”

    (Wikipedia isn’t always reliable, but I’ve seen the same material elsewhere.)

  6. Wikipedia is reliable on things that ate not ideological.

    Lots of people care about science, art, sports, etc.

    It is only only on politically charged entries, or entries pertaining to Islam, where people are motivated by hatred and determined to lie, that the system breaks down.

  7. Actually, civil engineering is romantic up until calculus, freshman year as I recall.

    Home ec is very romantic as my future and current wife nominated me to be the Future Homemakers of America Beau. Our younger son took home ec and actually learned how to do a few important life skills we neglected to teach him and accomplished his primary goal of meeting girls. A big improvement in his social skills.


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