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.