StFX Home Economic class, 1950s. Courtesy of StFX University Archives 90-779-3297
Excerpt from KristelFleuren’s web site The History of Women at St. Francis Xavier University:
Many Sisters were concerned that women were not benefiting from their education as they would if they were in a non co-educational institution taught only by women. Also not all women were benefiting from the Home Economics program, which at least should be strongly recommended for women, if not mandatory (Letter from Sister St. Catherine Martyr, Mount Saint Bernard Superior, to Fr. P.J. Nicholson, St.F.X. President, 1951). This attitude was also expressed by many students, who felt that a Home Economics Degree was more beneficial to them than a regular arts degree:
Home Economics is the best course for any girl to take; even if you never use it commercially, you can use it professionally. Home making, “an important profession”. … I’m not really prejudiced about it, but I can’t help gloating. While my friends are learning about what caused the fall of the Roman Empire, we learn practical things like interior decorating… (“Diary of a Home Eccer”) .
Much of the focus of women’s education was on creating proper wives and mothers who could function properly within society and therefore constitute a stabilizing influence. There were proposals for courses to address this issue, for example in 1953, the Sisters proposed a course called “Hygiene and Psychology of Wholesome Personality: Its Implications for Women and Home and Family Living”, through which women were to be taught about health, hygiene, and development of a “wholesome” personality and also about the negative effects of personality breakdown on the family and society (Syllabus for “Hygiene and Psychology of Wholesome Personality”).