“The Brides’ Course”
In 1912, when Casmir Funk coined the word “vitamine”, Home Economics courses had been offered for nine years at the University. The first course that was popularly – and mistakenly – called “The Bride’s Course” was part of a curriculum heavily loaded with sciences, humanities, and economics. An appropriation specifically to establish a Department of Home Economics was made by the legislature to the University of Wisconsin in 1903, due in large part to lobbying by local Women’s clubs. The Department of Home Economics was finally located in a building of its own at 1300 Linden Drive in 1914.
Dietetics was first offered in the Department of Home Economics in 1904. The description of the Home Economics four-year course in the 1903-04 University of Wisconsin Catalogue includes required courses in chemistry, physics, physiology and bacteriology, in addition to English, a foreign language, and the technical subjects of foods, textiles, architecture, and household management. Specific courses in the Department of Home Economics that were listed in the 1903-04 Catalogue included the forerunners of modern Dietetics and covered topics of sanitation, selection and preparation of foods. Three additional courses offered the next year also covered topics that are still part of today’s Dietetics Programs: “Microscopical Examination of Food Products and Fibers,” “Bacteriology for Students in Home Economics,” and “Food Analysis.” The catalogue description for Dietetics was:
“The physiological aspect of the food problem. Lectures and laboratory work. Course 3 (i.e. The Selection and Preparation of Foods) and physiology are prerequisites.”
In 1908, Home Economics moved from the College of Letters and Sciences to the College of Agriculture. No courses were taught during the 1908-09 academic year to allow time for development of a formal degree program. Shades of the contemporary Dietetics degree program are evident in the revamped Home Economics four-year course program. Dietetics again was listed in the 1909-10 University of Wisconsin Catalogue with this description:
“Dietary standards; balanced rations; diet as influenced by age, sex, and occupation; construction of dietaries and service of meals; dietetic treatment in disease and principles of home nursing. . . Five credits; . . . with both lecture and laboratory periods.”
The first graduate in Agriculture with a specialization in home economics was Miss Sarah Augusta Sutherland who graduated in 1910. At that time, each degree candidate had to complete a thesis. Miss Sutherland’s thesis, which was titled “A study of the methods of cooking the rump of beef showing cost, in market cost, in preparation and loss in cooking”, was an early indication of foods and nutrition research in Dietetics. Approximately half of the 21 undergraduate theses in Home Economics in 1913 addressed topics in foods and nutrition. The first Master of Science degree in Home Economics was awarded in 1911 to Miss Katherine Agnes Donovan who completed a thesis titled “A study of the infant mortality of Madison.”
Even though Biochemistry is correctly thought of as the foundation of nutrition on the Madison campus, Dr. Amy Daniels, an Associate Professor of Foods and Nutrition in this new Department of Home Economics, undertook a research program in 1914 that included studies clearly related to nutrition; two of the studies were “Loss of food value through various methods of preparation” and “Effects of special diets on rats.”
From the 1920s through the 1950s, many outstanding professors contributed to the professional success of graduates. Drs. Helen T. Parsons, May S. Reynolds, and Dorothy Husseman Strong were three who received national Borden Awards for “meritorious research in applied nutrition”.
During World War II food shortages and the demand for food service in the Army brought new challenges to the infant field of Dietetics. Some dietitians served as hospital dietitians in Army hospitals and a group joined the Womens’ Council of National Defense to advise the government about food conservation.
In 1951, the Department of Home Economics became a School of Home Economics within the College of Agriculture. One of the Departments in the new School was Foods and Nutrition, and they were responsible for the Dietetics major. In 1968, the School of Home Economics reorganized into the School of Family Resources and Consumer Sciences, emphasizing the social sciences. Concomitantly, the Department of Foods and Nutrition was dissolved. Faculty with expertise in foods, food science and food service management joined the Department of Food Science in the College of Agriculture. The Nutrition oriented faculty from home economics became part of a new department in the College named Nutritional Sciences, formed in large part through the efforts of A.E. Harper, Professor of Biochemistry. Dr. Harper split his academic appointment between the new department and Biochemistry and was Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences for 14 years. In 1982, the Department of Nutritional Sciences, with faculty offices scattered throughout campus, moved into its own building (and current location) at 1415 Linden Drive. (For more information see: History of the Nutritional Sciences Department.)
In keeping with the natural direction in dietetics education, a formal Didactic Dietetics Program (called “Plan IV”) recognized by The American Dietetic Association (ADA) was instituted in 1974. A Coordinated Program (CP), incorporating the supervised practice component of dietetics education, was instituted in 1976 with two major options – General Dietetics and Food Service Administration. With the CP came annual review and evaluation, not only of the clinical components but also of the didactic components of the dietetics education programs, by The ADA. Full accreditation status of the CP by The ADA was achieved in 1980 with reaccreditation in 1983 and 1992. Approval of the Plan V program, now referred to as the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD), by The ADA was achieved in 1988 with reapproval in 1998. In 1991, the degree designation for CALS dietetics graduates was changed from a Bachelor of Science-Agriculture to a Bachelor of Science-Dietetics with approval of the UW Board of Regents.
Currently, the UW-Madison offers an ADA approved DPD and an ADA accredited CP in dietetics with a total enrollment of approximately 150 dietetics majors. Approximately 85% of the dietetics majors are enrolled in the DPD; 15% are enrolled in the CP. Both of these programs award a Bachelor of Science-Dietetics through the Department of Nutritional Sciences. (See the Undergraduate Section of this website for additional information.) Students enroll in the Dietetics major through the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The option to enroll through the School of Human Ecology was eliminated in 2000. Didactic Program graduates must complete a post-baccalaureate dietetic internship after graduation before they can be eligible to take the national Registration Examination for Dietitians. National placement of DPD graduates into dietetic internships is approximately 55%. UW-Madison didactic graduates have achieved a placement rate of 85% over the past 10 years.
**This historical section was made possible by the Elizabeth Adams Ebbott Memorial Fund. Elizabeth Ebbott was a 1949 graduate of the School of Home Economics in Dietetics and interned at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She maintained annual communication among the members of the Class of ’49 Mortar Board from the time of their graduation until her death in 1998. This fund was established by members of her Mortar Board class and by her husband, Ralph Ebbott.