Senior Sem Journal: Spring Break… in Chicago

After taking some time off for Spring Break, our continuing series of journal entries by members of our capstone course, Senior Seminar, continues today and into next week with students sharing stories of delving more deeply into original, primary source research.

First up, Christina Anderson (’12), whose eleventh-hour interest in the history of home economics departments led her to the Windy City.

Over spring break I was able to begin my primary source research for my project. I was able to travel to Chicago, Illinois to visit the University of Chicago’s Special Collections Research Center. I am using the University of Chicago’s Home Economics Department, or as they call it the Department of Household Administration, as a case study for the development and significance of home economics departments for women entering the public sector.

Marion Talbot
Marion Talbot (1858-1948) - University of Chicago Library

I was able to look through the collection of the Marion Talbot Papers to find perspectives from those involved with this department and university to complement factual data. It was an exciting experience to look through these papers. I found a dynamic that I was not fully expecting or I had overlooked – students back then are similar to students of today regarding rules and complaints. I came across dormitory curfew rules, dance/social events regulations, and complaints about the food provided. Even though these women, who participated in the establishment of coeducation in universities and can be considered pioneers in education, they have similar social concerns to students today, which makes them seem more real and human to me.

I also found documents referring to the construction of the Department of Household Administration. Many of these documents were letters or memos sent between Marion Talbot (the Dean for Women Students) and William Harper (President of the University). As I stated before, these accounts add personality and background to stated facts from my secondary source research (i.e. the year this department was founded, 1904).

Now that I have begun compiling my research, I have to process this information. This seems a daunting task, because I am not quite sure how to approach this information. I have not done primary research on this scale before. I still have a great amount of information to acquire and process in order to prove or disprove my hypothesis, but this trip to Chicago over spring break has allowed me to begin this great task.

– Christina Anderson

<<Read the previous entry in the Senior Sem Journal series

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