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Institute for the Coordination of Women’s Interests

Institute for the Coordination of Women’s Interests The Institute for the Coordination of Women’s Interests was established at Smith College in 1925 with Ethel Puffer Howes as director. Howes, an advocate of domestic reform, formulated a plan for a research institute to develop methods of combining efficient home management with serious intellectual endeavors. The proposed institute received a three-year grant from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation and the approval of the Smith College Board of Trustees.

The Institute had two major goals: to find practical ways to make household chores easier for women and to educate women to pursue interests which could be integrated with the duties of marriage. In an effort to achieve the first objective, the Institute experimented with ways to help married women lighten their daily routines. Between 1926 and 1929, the Institute conducted research and practical demonstrations to provide home assistance through cooperative nursery schools, dinner kitchens, and cooked food delivery services. To attain the second objective, Howes sought to guide women into professions and activities which could be combined with marriage. Toward this end, the Institute studied domestic and landscape architecture and free-lance writing to determine their possibilities for coordination with family life.

Associated by the faculty with vocational training and home economics, the Institute functioned as an isolated entity. In two recent papers about the Institute, the authors concluded that neither the goals of the Institute’s programs nor its theoretical bases were clearly defined. In 1929 Howes asked the Trustees for a two year extension for the Institute. She also proposed that the Institute be incorporated into the college curriculum, a plan which the faculty did not endorse. After the Rockefeller Foundation denied a request for continued support, the Trustees appropriated funding for Howes to conclude her work. Howes did not complete her research and by 1931 the Institute was at an end.

For further information please see: http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/smitharchives/manosca81.html

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