Emma Pike Ewing

Interesting quotations of Emma Pike Ewing:

“Glance through the houses to which you have free access.  In the slack, almost slovenly manner, in which many of them (houses) are kept, you can scarcely fail to discover the cause (for familial discord).  Comfort, with more people is essential to happiness, and in a neglect of what are called “minor household duties,” lies the secret of much domestic discord.  The peace of a whole family is often destroyed for the day by such seemingly trivial affairs as burnt toast and muddy coffee for breakfast.  Badly prepared meals have driven many husbands and brothers to saloons and drinking dens where thy have picked up intemperate and licentious habits, and have been transformed into outcasts and criminals.  It may be deemed a little thing to trim a lamp, to make a bed, or to prepare a meal, but human happiness is seriously affected by little things.”

“But is it not as dignified, as elevating, as ennobling—as well in every way, to make beds, sweep rooms, prepare food, and perform other household work, as it is to plow and sow fields, buy and sell merchandise, construct railroads, build houses, make newspapers, preach sermons, construe laws, or administer pills and powders?  If not, why not?”

“That certain kinds of work are genteel and refining, and certain other kinds menial and degrading, is one of the most pernicious ideas that ever hound lodgment in the brain of a human being; and whoever teaches it, directly or indirectly is placing a stumbling block in the path of thousands, and doing incalculable damage to the cause of human progress.  No honest work is menial or degrading.  All honest work is good work.  All good work is ennobling.”

“It is not the mission of every woman to do housework.  All women are not called housekeepers.  But it is of paramount importance that every woman who attempts to preside over a household should be thoroughly instructed in the domestic arts.”

“The idea is prevalent that women have ‘an instinctive knack’ for housekeeping’ that they have no need of any preparation for the management of a household; that a regular course of instruction in the domestic activist is an absurdity, and our leading colleges and seminaries for the education of women virtually acknowledge their belief in the prevalent idea, by ignoring the household arts in their respective courses of study.  But if lawyers, doctors, and preachers were left to pick up as best they might, their knowledge of law, medicine, and theology, the results would be as crude perhaps as our nineteenth century home-making.”

“Political Economy has to do with no other subject than national wealth.  Domestic Economy has to do with everything that concerns the health, happiness and welfare of the individual.  It vitalizes politics and religion, and touches humanity at every point.  It means making beds, and sweeping rooms, and preparing food, and performing innumberable other household duties.  But it means vastly more than this.  It means the mental, moral, social, and physical upbuilding of the citizen.  It means the harmonious and perfect development of the individual man and woman.  It means Home-Making.”

“I plead for the largest liberty and widest privilege for woman.  I ask for her, not courtesy or chivalry, but justice.  I believe that woman’s work is any work she has the skill and desire to perform, woman’s sphere is any sphere in which she has the energy and ability to place herself, and woman’s rights are all the rights accorded any human being; but I know of no nobler work than household work, no grander sphere than the sphere of domestic duty, and no dearer right than the right to make a pleasant, healthful, happy, home.” 

-Most Quotations from Housekeeper’s National League, “A Paper on Homemaking” by Emma Pike Ewing


Emma Pike Ewing

Emma Pike Ewing (at Iowa State 1884-1888) 
“What this country needs is better pumpkin pie and less politics.” –Emma Pike Ewing

“The prosperity of a nation depends upon the health and morals of its citizens, and the health and morals of the citizens of a nation depend mainly upon the food they eat and the homes they live in.” –Emma Pike Ewing

“Measured by practical results the labors of the domestic economist are of infinitely more value to the human race than the labors of the political economist.” –Emma Pike Ewing


Although many heralded her tenure at Iowa State with great enthusiasm, Emma Pike Ewing’s time at the school would not be particularly successful.  The second leader of Domestic Economy was a woman of national reputation.  Ewing became famous for teaching the wives of former slave owners how to cook after the Civil War.  She was called the “woman who would have taught America to make good bread if America could have been taught.”  She published a cookbook the year before coming to Iowa State called Cooking and Castle-building, which was part cookbook, part novel, and part sermon.

Iowa State and Ewing had plans to open up a non-collegiate two-year program of domestic science, but the program ended after its first two-year cycle.  In the same year, 1884, the school and Ewing also started a two-year post-graduate course, but that also only lasted one cycle.

 Ewing believed that in-depth was better than breadth when it came to learning.  Each lesson she would focus on teaching one particular dish.

“Instead of arranging an elaborate bill of fare---I select a single article and make the preparation of that article the subject of an entire lesson.  To illustrate:  A popular cooking school text book gives for a single lesson the following bill of fare: ‘Tripe soup, fried halibut neck, kolcannon, bubble and squeak, apple fritters. Now instead of attempting to instruct a class in the preparation of such a variety of articles in the course of a lesson, I take up one subject—bread making or soup making, or roasting meats, for instance.”

Ewing did not have the interest or patience to fight for a bigger domestic economy workspace and better equipment.  During her time at the school, the budget for the entire department was $900, of which she received a salary of $800.  Whereas some future department leaders cleaned the building themselves, Ewing used part of her own salary to pay a janitor to do the work.  And while some of the early leaders kept their positions until their health required them to leave, Ewing soon decided that she did not want to stay and fight an administration that was not interested in adequately funding the program.  She accepted a position at Purdue in 1888, but retired from there in two years to work in cooking schools and give lectures.