Date of Award

2006

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Advisor

Richard W. Judd

Second Committee Member

Nathan Godfried

Third Committee Member

Marli F. Weiner

Abstract

The period immediately following World War II had in it elements that could, if not carefully managed, lead the country back into a second round of depression-like conditions. A combination of wartime rationing and general lack of disposable income or goods to purchase had accustomed citizens to very conservative expenditures. If the country was going to get back on its peacetime economic feet, it would be necessary to find ways to convince Americans that they needed new goods. While there was considerable pent-up demand, there was also concern at the government level that lackluster sales could produce a recession. Trained home economists embraced the challenge. Their training and loyalties were traditionally consumer-protection oriented. Through their professional organization, the American Home Economic Association, they made plans and developed programs designed to not only give the American economy the boost it needed, but also to educate the consumer about the new goods offered after the war. Using the Journal of Home Economics for the period 1944 through 1956 and numerous secondary sources dealing with consumption, economic conditions, and the role of the home economist, this thesis examines the ways in which professional home economists transmitted their message while often struggling to maintain the precepts and standards they had learned. A short history of the home economics movement and the professionalization of the field are followed by an examination of several large university programs. Finally, the thesis examines the American Home Economics Association and its policies and efforts to include its members in the shaping of the post-war recovery, the work of the Cooperative Extension Service home economist with rural families and the work and difficulties of home economists working in the industrial sector.

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