“Ellen Swallow Richards with students in her lab at MIT, 1888.” Ellen Swallow Richards Digital Library, MIT Museum.

Ellen Swallow Richards studied chemistry while attending Vassar College, becoming the first woman to graduate with a B.S. from MIT. She continued her chemistry studies as a graduate student, but was refused an advanced degree because of her gender. Richards donated her own money to create the first laboratory devoted to nutrition science at MIT. Richards and her students, many of whom were women, studied the chemistry of food and its impact on the body, publishing their insights in handbooks for women. By working to improve the nutrition and sanitation of American eating habits, Richards pioneered the field of “Home Economics.”

Levine, Susan. “School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America’s Favorite Welfare Program.” Princeton University Press, 2008.

Home Economics