Bevier, Isabel (1860–1942)

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Bevier, Isabel (1860–1942)

American educator and reformer in the study of home economics. Born near Plymouth, Ohio, on November 14, 1860; died in Urbana, Illinois, on March 17, 1942; the youngest of nine children; attended Plymouth High School and Wooster Preparatory School, Wooster, Ohio; graduated Wooster College, 1885, M.A., 1888; attended Case School of Applied Science, 1888–89; Harvard, 1891; Wesleyan, 1894; Western Reserve, Cleveland, Ohio; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Selected writings:

(with Susannah Usher) Food and Nutrition (1906); (with Usher) The Home Economics Movement (1906, later enlarged into Home Economics in Education, 1924); The House: Its Plan, Decoration and Care (1907).

A vital force in educational reform, Isabel Bevier brought the subject of home economics into the realm of scientific study on the university level. In a talk she gave to the alumnae of Glendale College in February 1911, she referred to home economics as "a sane and safe program for meeting some of the demands of this industrial age."

After her graduation from Wooster College in 1885, Bevier worked as a high school principal in Shelby, Ohio, for two years and taught Latin for a year before receiving her master's degree. She took a professorship at Pennsylvania College for Women in Pittsburgh where she taught science courses for nine years. During summers, she took advanced courses in agricultural chemistry and calorimetry at Harvard and Wesleyan. Bevier also did field studies on nutrition in Pittsburgh and Hampton, Virginia, in 1898; her findings were later published in bulletins of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 1900, she was appointed head of the new home-economics department at the University of Illinois (Urbana), which she quickly renamed the department of "household science." Determined to make the course one of scientific instruction rather than domestic training, she demanded the same high entrance and academic standards as the other departments within the university. On campus, she established one of the first home-economics laboratories, in which she tested her theories, and in 1915 she took over the home-economics section of the university extension program. Over the years, she gradually won respect for the department, although her blunt manner was not always appreciated. During her tenure, 630 students graduated from the department.

From 1910 to 1915, Bevier served as the second president of the American Home Economics Association. During World War I, she served briefly in Washington, D.C., as an advisor on food conservation. She also chaired the home-economics department of the University of California at Los Angeles from 1921 to 1923, and lectured at the University of Arizona for a semester, before returning to Illinois as professor of home economics. In addition to her books, Bevier wrote numerous articles, bulletins, and circulars during her career. She is also credited with the idea of using a thermometer in the cooking of meat. In 1928, the home-economics building at the University of Illinois was named in her honor. She retired in 1930, at age 70, and died in Urbana, Illinois, on March 17, 1942.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Bevier, Isabel (1860–1942)

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