The Suitcase Lady


April 21, 2009, 11:09 pm

Perhaps the time has come to reinstate Home Economics classes in our schools. While we are at it, we should resurrect manual training classes, too.

When I was in middle school, referred to as Junior High at that time, girls and boys alike took both shop classes and cooking. How enlightened.

With the current economic mess in America, knowing how to cook a delicious dinner for pennies or how to fix things instead of tossing them might morph from being extremely quaint to extremely helpful.

I am frankly puzzled at how these domestic skills got so marginalized in the last fifty years.

Abundance must breed a cavalier attitude toward all things home economic. Why bother to cook soup from scratch when you have the cash for endless trips to McDonald’s? Why fix the toaster when Walmart sells new ones for $12.99. And why sew on popped buttons when “the one button missing garment” can be tossed in the Goodwill donation bag?

Our great-great grandparents knew how to build homes in the wilderness and raise almost all of their own food. I can’t even get a tent to stay upright in a mild wind or get a tomato plant to flourish.

I’m definitely not yearning for a return to pioneer times. Making my own soap from fat and lye and butchering chickens are not tasks I want to undertake. But a basic familiarity with cooking, nutrition, home repairs and family finance are good survival skills.

If our skill set gets reduced to sitting stationary and interacting with a computer screen, we may have to wonder whose intelligence is artificial.

4 Comments for this entry

  • Claudia

    Ah yes, fond memories of the 50’s! But “enlightened”? Hardly. When the boys took Home Ec they learned how to grill steaks. The girls made lemon meringue pie. The boys did learn how to sew on a button. The girls made little aprons with their names embroidered on the pocket. As for shop, I recall making a hamburger press and a waste basket, albeit with powertools that I was thrilled to operate.

  • Thelma Friedman

    Dear Mary,




  • Diane

    You must be reading my mind. As someone who has sewn all their life and has taken that skill and applied it to a home business, I was thinking how I have yet to pass this skill on down to my daughter (or my son, I believe in equal opportunity). I think this summer would be a good time to start. Becca is old enough to understand the math and use the machine without injuring herself. As for Dan, it could be a good way to spend some time together before he heads off to college. At least he might learn how to sew on that button you refer to!

  • PS(anafter-thought)

    I agree with you and I’ve heard the same from others. My M-I-L was a “home ec” teacher, and a good one. And she taught many kids some great skills, not just the superficial skills one learns in junior high.