Watchful Weighing: The Body Politics of Home Economics 1920-1950
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Not long after the turn of the century, home economists, physicians, and public health workers made the height-weight chart into a household term. Historian Rachel Moran examines the spread of tables in schools, agricultural extension programs, and home economics curriculum. By the early 1920s, experts were debating the balance between the benefits and dangers of height-weight charts, and questioning the charts that many of them had helped popularize. Moran argues that the charts ultimately survived intense expert criticism only because lay-women had become such firm advocates of their use. The talk considers the relationship between female lay-citizens and experts, as well as the political power of statistics in early 20th century U.S. government. It also raises questions about the use and critique of contemporary physical measurements, especially Body Mass Index.
Rachel Louise Moran was the 2010 recipient of the College of Human Ecology Fellowship in the History of Home Economics.She is currently the Crawford Fellow in Ethical Inquiry at the Pennsylvania State University, where she is finishing her dual PhD in History and Women’s Studies.
College of Human Ecology Fellowship; New York State College of Home Economics; New York State College of Human Ecology; Body Mass Index; Obesity