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Atwater, Helen Woodard (29 May 1876–26 June 1947), home economist, was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, the daughter of Wilbur Olin Atwater, an agricultural and food chemistry pioneer and expert in physiology and scientific administration, and Marcia Woodard. She grew up in Middletown, Connecticut, where her father was a professor at Wesleyan University. Beginning when she was six, her family lived in Europe several times. Her father had done postdoctoral work in chemistry at Leipzig and Berlin, and he returned in the 1880s to carry on research in nutrition and calorimetry (the energy-producing values of foods). While in Europe, Atwater attended school, becoming fluent in both German and French; she entered Smith College in 1894 and was keenly interested in studies and experiments in human nutrition. She graduated from Smith in 1897 with a bachelor’s degree in literature....

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Campbell, Helen Stuart (04 July 1839–22 July 1918), author and home economist, was born in Lockport, New York, to Jane E. Campbell and Homer H. Stuart, a banker and lawyer. She attended New York public schools and two private schools, the Gammell School in Warren, Rhode Island, and Mrs. Cook’s Seminary in Bloomfield, New Jersey....

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Frederick, Christine (06 February 1883–06 April 1970), home efficiency expert, advertising consultant, and consumer advocate, was born Christine Isobel Campbell in Boston, Massachusetts, to William Campbell, a clergyman, and Mimie Scott of St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after Christine’s birth, Mimie fled this unhappy union and took the child to St. Louis, where they spent two years with her family. From the age of two until she was five, Christine lived in czarist Russia, where Mimie served as a governess. Upon their return, a nasty divorce and custody battle in a Massachusetts court awarded custody to William while a separate Missouri ruling awarded custody to her mother; Christine remained in St. Louis. When she was eleven years old her mother married Wyatt MacGaffey, whose name Christine took when the family moved to Chicago. The memory of her untrained mother fleeing an unhappy marriage and trying to support herself had a profound influence on Christine’s life choices....

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Ruth M. Leverton. Courtesy of Jeffrey S Hampl.

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Leverton, Ruth M. (23 March 1908–14 September 1982), scientist and dietitian, was born Ruth Mandeville Leverton in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Ernest Richard Leverton, an engineer, and Helen Ruth Mandeville Leverton. The family moved often because of her father's career. After her high school senior year in Deadwood, South Dakota, they moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she began studying at the University of Nebraska....

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Morgan, Agnes Fay (04 May 1884–20 July 1968), nutrition scientist and home economics administrator, was born Jane Agnes Fay in Peoria, Illinois, the daughter of Irish immigrants Patrick John Fay, a laborer and builder, and his second wife, Mary Josephine Dooley. Morgan graduated as an outstanding student from Peoria High School and with financial aid from a local citizen briefly attended Vassar College and then the University of Chicago, from which she received the B.S. (1904) and M.S. (1905) in chemistry....

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Norton, Alice Peloubet (25 February 1860–23 February 1928), home economics educator, was born Mary Alice Peloubet near Gloucester, Massachusetts, the daughters of Francis Nathan Peloubet, a Congregational minister, and Mary Abby Thaxter. During her youth the family moved to a succession of Massachusetts pastorates in Oakham, Attleboro, and Natick. Alice graduated from Smith College with an A.B. in 1882. In 1883 she married Lewis Mills Norton, a teacher of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)....

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Parloa, Maria (25 September 1843–21 August 1909), teacher of cooking and pioneer in home economics education, was born in Massachusetts; no records have been found of her parentage or exact place of birth. Orphaned in her youth, Parloa supported herself by working as a cook in private homes and as a pastry cook in several New Hampshire hotels, notably the Appledore House on the Isles of Shoals. In 1871, at the age of twenty-eight, she enrolled in the normal school of the Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield. The following year she published ...

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Richards, Ellen Henrietta Swallow (03 December 1842–30 March 1911), chemist and home economist, was born on a farm outside of Dunstable, Massachusetts, the only child of two schoolteachers, Peter Swallow and Fanny Gould Taylor. The family moved to nearby Westford so that Ellen could attend the coeducational Westford Academy. After graduation, she taught school briefly before returning home to nurse her ailing mother and work as a bookkeeper for her father, who had opened a general store. These years were marked by depression and despair. Richards was diagnosed as suffering from neurasthenia, which quickly subsided when her parents agreed to send her to the newly opened Vassar College for women....

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Richardson, Anna Euretta (05 September 1883–03 February 1931), home economist and educator, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of William H. Richardson and Euretta Miller. In 1887 the family moved to Summerville, South Carolina, where her father served as mayor for many years. In 1900 she graduated from the Memminger High and Normal School in Charleston and three years later received a B.S. from Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. During the next few years, Richardson took graduate courses at the University of Chicago and Columbia University while teaching at secondary schools in Summerville and in Ocala, Florida. She earned an M.A. in nutrition from Columbia University in 1911....

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Roberts, Lydia Jane (30 June 1879–28 May 1965), home economics educator and nutritionist, was born in Hope Township, Barry County, Michigan, the daughter of Warren Roberts, a carpenter, and Mary McKibbin. She attended grade school and high school in Martin, Michigan. After graduating from high school (1898), Roberts obtained a Limited Teaching Certificate (qualification for teaching in only certain elementary schools) from Mt. Pleasant Normal School in 1899 and began teaching in rural Michigan. Her adventuresome nature led her to teaching positions in Miles City and Great Falls, Montana, before she returned to obtain her Life Certificate (qualification for teaching in all rural and urban schools) from Mt. Pleasant in 1909. She then taught third grade and served as a critic teacher, or supervisor of student teachers, in the local normal school in Dillon, Montana. Having observed a relationship between the health of her students and the quality of their diets, Roberts wanted to know more about the nutritional needs of children. To pursue this knowledge she entered the University of Chicago in 1915 at the age of thirty-six, ending her seventeen-year career as an elementary school teacher....

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Talbot, Marion (31 July 1858–20 October 1948), university administrator and home economics pioneer, was born in Thun, Switzerland, the daughter of Emily Fairbanks Talbot, a champion of women’s education, and Israel Tisdale Talbot, a proponent of homeopathic medicine and dean of the Boston University School of Medicine. Born in Switzerland while her parents were on vacation, she was raised in Boston. Growing up at a time when no college preparatory school was open to girls in Boston, Marion studied Greek and Latin with tutors, attended the private Chauncy Hall School and the nonclassical Girls’ High School, and studied modern languages in Europe. Though lacking some of the courses usually required for college entrance, she won acceptance to Boston University and graduated in 1880....

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Terhune, Mary Virginia Hawes (21 December 1830–03 June 1922), novelist and domestic expert, was born in Dennisville, Amelia County, Virginia. She was the second of seven surviving children of Samuel Pierce Hawes, a merchant originally from Massachusetts, and Judith Anna Smith Hawes, the daughter of well-to-do Virginia planters. Mary Virginia’s father gave his precocious daughter early access to classic literature and provided her with a broad education unusual for a southern girl of the period. She was schooled at home by tutors and governesses and spent two years attending a Presbyterian girls’ seminary in Richmond after the family moved to that city in 1845....

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Van Rensselaer, Martha (21 June 1864–26 May 1932), home economist, was born in Randolph, Cattaraugus County, New York, the daughter of Henry Killian Van Rensselaer, a shopkeeper, and his second wife Arvilla Owen. Although a descendant of one of New York’s oldest and most distinguished families, she was raised in modest circumstances. Van Rensselaer was greatly influenced by her mother, a former teacher who later ran a boardinghouse. Her mother’s activism within the ranks of the suffrage and temperance movements, as well as her church activities, provided her daughter with a role model of the possibilities that were open to women despite their location in a depressed rural farming community. A good student, Van Rensselaer attended Chamberlain Institute, a local coeducational Methodist school (where her father had also served as a trustee), from which she graduated in 1884....

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White, Edna Noble (03 June 1879–04 May 1954), home economics and child development educator, was born in Fairmount, Illinois, the daughter of Alexander L. White, a prominent local businessman, and Angeline Noble. The second of three children, White grew up in comfortable surroundings with her older sister and younger brother. Her father was a teacher and later a hardware dealer in the small village of Fairmount. Her mother was educated although not professionally employed....

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Woolman, Mary Raphael Schenck (26 April 1860–01 August 1940), educator and author, was born in Camden, New Jersey, the daughter of Joseph Schenck, a physician, and Martha McKeen. As a child Mary Schenck lived a privileged life. Because her father was a leading doctor in the community—he was far ahead of his time in the use of prophylactic measures and modern medical surgical methods—she had access to his vast library, and after showing scholarly promise she was sent to a private Quaker school in Philadelphia that trained young women from upper-class families in many subjects, including domestic arts. In 1883–1884 she continued her education at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied history and languages....