Children of IU Faculty lived in Home Economics “Practice House”

Established in 1913, the Department of Home Economics at Indiana University sought to teach students how to be homemakers, which included courses on “Quantity Cookery” and “Institutional Management” as well as textile merchandising.

Children lived at the Practice House to give child-care experience to undergraduates.
Children lived at the Practice House to give child-care experience to undergraduates.

As part of the curriculum, the department opened its first “practice house” to teach home management in 1920. Common throughout institutions of higher education with home ec programs, the responsibilities for the girls who lived at the house were divided into several parts: student manager, main cook, salad and dessert cook, general kitchen upkeep, cleaning and care of the house, and baby director. Most of the time, a baby (usually the child of a faculty member) lived at the house full-time, sometimes for as long as two semesters. Students would live in the house for eight weeks at a time. The house remained active until at the least of the end of the 1960s.

In this photo from 1948, undergraduate students toast marshmallows at the Practice House.
In this photo from 1948, undergraduate students toast marshmallows at the Practice House.

The Department of Home Economics still exists today, although its name has been changed. On January 31, 1987, the Board of Trustees approved changing the name of the department to “Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design.

The records of the department, spanning 1911-1999, are now open for research in the University Archives. Contact Archives staff for further information!