Anna Richardson

Anna Richardson

Anna Euretta Richardson (1883-1931) Home Economics Dean from 1923-1926

When President Pearson decided to ask Anna Richardson to replace retiring Home Economics Dean Catherine MacKay, he was sure she was the woman for the job.  He offered Richardson, who had been developing home economics programs for the Federal Board for Vocational Education, complete reign of the department if she would come to Iowa State College. With Pearson’s promise of support and autonomy, Richardson gladly accepted the charge.

 The new dean had been destined to be involved in education.  Her parents named her after an unmarried aunt, who taught school.  As a little girl in Charleston, South Carolina, Anna said that she, too, was going to “be an old maid and teach school, because all Anna Richardsons did that.” 

After getting her M.A. at Columbia University, Richardson proved to be not only a good teacher but also a gifted administrator. Richardson had a vision of how to build on the work of her predecessor, and the administrative acumen to turn the vision into reality.

Richardson had four major accomplishments while at the school:

  1. She planned the $500,000 addition to the Home Economics Building
  2. She increased the home economics staff from 49 to 75
  3. She had the idea to put babies in the Home Management House, giving childcare “a good start as a field of study”
  4. She helped start the school’s home economics experiment station and emphasized the importance of research

The dean sought these highly visible changes to help students take pride in their program.  “I wish students could appreciate home economics at Iowa State College,” she once said, “for there is nothing in the country like it.  We have the best plant and equipment there is.”  Richardson succeeded, and Iowa State became a “Mecca” of undergraduate and graduate students seeking a quality home economics education.

Richardson left in 1926 to develop childcare and parental education programs for the American Home Economics Association—something she had come to love while at Iowa State.  Although her time at the school was short, Dean Richardson is credited with developing a broader and stronger home economics program thanks to her impressive vision and perspective. 

“Perhaps no one trait stands out more prominently than her sense of perspective, her ability to see people and things in their relative significance and to determine the real importance of different issues.  She seemed always to ponder over all the factors involved in a situation and to reach her decision after carefully weighing the evidence from all sides.  This gave to her life a poise, a dignity, a sensitiveness to the needs of others which made it admired and admirable.”—Mary E. Sweeny, Merrill-Palmer School, Detroit