By Nicole Heisick
The Mother of Home Economics (1883-1954)
Louise Stanley felt the school system was lacking something: basic home management skills such as nutrition, sewing, cooking, and child development. So Stanley brought her knowledge of food nutrition and home economics to the University of Missouri in Columbia and developed the home economics program seen in schools today, now frequently called family and consumer sciences. Thanks to her, these skills are still staples of a high school education.
Stanley’s educational background is vast. Born in Tennessee on June 8, 1883, she graduated from Peabody College in 1903 with a Bachelor of Science, the University of Chicago in 1905 with a Bachelor of Education, Columbia University in 1907 with a Master of Arts, and Yale University in 1911 with a Ph.D. in biochemistry.
She worked as a home economics instructor at the University of Missouri from 1907 to 1911 and as professor and chairwoman of the home economics department from 1911 to 1923.
In 1923, the United States Department of Agriculture appointed Stanley as the chief of the National Bureau of Home Economics. While serving in this role, she directed the first national farm housing survey, which contributed to the establishment of programs to improve rural living.
Throughout her life, Stanley was a member of the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council. She was appointed to the American Standards Association, making her the first woman to hold an official USDA position. A National Agricultural Hall of Fame inductee, Stanley Hall at MU was named for her.
Thanks to Stanley, students can now graduate with a more well-rounded degree and broader skill set that carries over into their lives after school.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re showcasing our Top 10 Women of Missouri, featured in the February 2012 of Missouri Life and selected by our panelists. To read our panelists’ bios, click here. For a full list of our 95 nominees for Top 10 Women of Missouri, click here. For more stories like this, subscribe to Missouri Life magazine.