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Florida State College for Women/Florida State University School of Home Economics Florida Extension Services Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2005-016

Scope and Contents

This small collection documents the history of the Florida extension service program from its beginnings at the Florida State College for Women (FSCW) / Florida State University (FSU) School of Home Economics. The collection includes reference materials about other statewide agricultural extension service agencies and home economics, articles about Florida 4-H Clubs and the history of Florida home demonstration work, and publicity brochures about Florida home demonstration work published by the Florida State Home Demonstration Office at FSU. It is historically significant to researchers studying the cooperative extension movement in Florida and the United States and its relationship to higher education programs.

Related Materials: In addition to the reference files, articles, publicity, and scrapbooks in this collection, there are photographs and negatives documenting Florida State University's 4-H Club (early 1950s), and its School of Home Economics (1953-1964), and Home Demonstration Division (early 1950s) available to researchers in the Florida State University Special Collections Photographic Archives.


  • created: 1937-1969
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1951-1964
  • Other: Date acquired: 12/00/2005

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

To request permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from the archives, please contact Heritage & University Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida. Researchers must obtain separate permission from the copyright holders of material held within University Archives collections for which the institution does not hold copyright.

Biographical or Historical Information

According to Agnes Ellen Harris, the head of Florida State College for Women (FSCW)'s Department of Home Economics, and Florida's First State and County Home Demonstration Agent, home demonstration work in Florida began during FSCW's 1908-1909 academic term, when she was invited by Mrs. Lena A. Shackelford, president of the Florida State Federation of Women's Clubs and wife of Florida Supreme Court Justice T.M. Shackelford, to give a cooking demonstration in Ocala, Florida. A book of recipes, considered the first home economics work published by FSCW, was printed and distributed at this meeting. The demonstration was so successful that Miss Harris requested a year's leave of absence from FSCW to go to Columbia University, where she prepared herself for extension work. Also during this time, FSCW's President, Dr. Edward Conradi, strongly supported the home demonstration program and was instrumental in establishing the state headquarters for home demonstration work at FSCW.

After a year's work at Columbia, Miss Harris returned to FSCW and, after learning that a type of extension work for country girls, called "Tomato Clubs," was being established at agricultural colleges in the South, she created these clubs at the college. These clubs were also the first Girls 4-H Clubs in Florida. Club members planted and harvested tomatoes on a one-tenth acre plot and held "canning parties." The girls' mothers came as chaperones and helped with canning the tomatoes, an activity which was among the first "method" demonstrations given in home demonstration work in Florida.

Many of the early Florida home demonstration agents were teachers who worked with the tomato clubs during a few months in the summer. Their salaries were small, and travel was slow and often difficult. Twelve agents began work in 1912 and 500 girls enrolled in the tomato clubs. During this active period, agents worked directly with county superintendents and newspaper reporters for the purpose of educating Florida residents about how to save surplus fruits and vegetables.

In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act was passed by the U.S. Congress, providing federal aid for agricultural extension work in agriculture and home economics. The legislation also gave official government sanction to a plan of cooperation among the federal, state, and county governments in a system of rural education now known as Cooperative Extension work. This was the first time that the term "Home Economics" appeared in federal legislation. After the passage of this bill, more agents with better training and salaries were appointed, and FSCW began a cooperative program with the College of Agriculture at the University of Florida and the United States Department of Agriculture providing home demonstration training in Florida. Funds for conducting the work were available not only from these two institutions, but also from appropriations made by Boards of Commissioners and Boards of Public Instruction of the various state counties. In addition, extension services for adult women started in Florida in 1916.

In 1918, President Conradi proposed a "war college" for women to be held in Tallahassee. 375 women attending from all parts of Florida discussed how World War I impacted home demonstration activities and how home demonstration agents should respond to the demands of all-out war. As a result of this conference, the position of the extension agents was clarified and the women became better organized and participated in Liberty Loan drives, Red Cross work, community services to military camps, and other activities.

Home demonstration activities expanded after World War I and through the 1920s. There were developments such as the extension of telephone and electric lines, better roads, improved homes, health programs, and better schools. This work fostered a growing community spirit and the beginning of the community recreation program. In 1920, the first movie depicting home demonstration work was filmed in Florida. It included many scenes from the first 4-H Club camp for boys and girls. In 1927, the FSCW's 4-H Club was organized. In 1928, through the donation of $100 by Appleyard Printing Company, Tallahassee, a Council scholarship fund for 4-H Club girls was started by FSCW's Senior Home Demonstration Council.

With the close of Florida's prosperous years in the late 1920s, home demonstration work was challenged by a rapid succession of devastating storms in South Florida, bank failures, crop losses, and other difficult situations. Gardening, canning, and clothes remodeling became matters of necessity to feed and clothe families under trying financial conditions. During the depression, the need to increase the income of the farm family, in both cash and kind, was paramount. The sale of surplus products through home demonstration markets, roadside stands, or individual sales served as a means to supplement cash income. Reports supplied by the home demonstration women and girls for this period show they sold home-manufactured products or produced quality goods worth hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. In addition, during this time, the first 4-H girls, all FSCW graduates, were appointed county home demonstration agents.

As field agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, home demonstration workers were assigned many essential duties during World War II, including food production and conservation, nutrition, salvage, and rural health. As leaders in the state and counties, they were able to accept local and statewide responsibilities for wartime programs.

Following World War II, Florida State University (FSU, formerly FSCW) classroom space was at a premium and it was necessary to move the home demonstration state headquarters to the Administration Building at the discontinued Dale Mabry Air Force Base, just west of the main campus in Tallahassee. While the quality of the quarters was minimal, space was abundant, providing ample room for offices, storage, production, and collating of educational mimeographed materials.

During the immediate post-war period, there were several changes in the program. In 1948, two new positions were added - one in health improvement and the other the first state girls 4-H Club agent. Up to that time, state home demonstration staff had alternately shared the responsibility of working with the state 4-H program and chaperoning the girls to state and national meetings. Anna Mae Sikes was appointed state home demonstration leader in 1950 and served in this capacity until 1964.

Throughout the 1950s, home demonstration work continued to experience great expansion, reorganization, and a move to new state headquarters. An assistant editor and visual aids specialist position was created and filled by Alma Warren in 1951. This position recognized the need for mass media to reach an expanding audience.

In-service training for agents and state staff members continued to expand and an additional state staff position was created. In 1953, Eunice Grady was appointed assistant to the state home demonstration agent in training programs. Her responsibilities included recruitment, pre-service training, in-service training, graduate training for home demonstration workers, and assisting the state agent when requested. These activities resulted in the establishment of FSU's Department of Home Demonstration.

In 1958, the state staff was moved back to the main FSU campus in the Extension wing of the just completed Sandels Home Economics Building. That year, FSU's Extension Committee on Reorganization and Policy Subcommittee on Scope and Responsibility published The Cooperative Extension Service-Today. In 1959, the scope report was followed by A Guide for Extension Programs in the Future.

When the Florida Extension Service reorganized in 1963, seven state home demonstration staff members were transferred from FSU to new headquarters at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Floy Britt, the Negro district home demonstration agent, was moved from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University to FSU and her title was changed to Extension Home Economist for Special Programs. Subsequently, Home Demonstration Agents' titles were changed to Extension Home Economics Agents.

The next major reorganization occurred in 1968 when women district agents were eliminated in favor of program assignments. The state leader became Assistant Dean for Home Economics and all county personnel and operations were united under the direction of county directors.

Other organizational changes followed. In 1971, the Department of Extension Home Economics was established at FSU. With the creation of this new department, the duties of Assistant Dean of Extension of Home Economics was expanded to include 4-H Club work and the position title was changed to Assistant Dean of Human Resource Development. Two program positions were transferred to an administrative unit on program development. To comply with affirmative action standards, changes were made in the organizational structure of Florida state and county extension offices and title listings.


0.40 Linear Feet (7 Folders)

Language of Materials


Method of Acquisition

Reference materials, articles, and publicity items were acquired from the Florida State University College of Human Sciences in December 2005

Related Materials

Related materials covering home demonstration work in Leon County may be found in the Florida Association of Family and Consumer Science Records, housed in this repository.

Processing Information

The collection was processed in December 2005 and January 2006

Florida State College for Women/Florida State University School of Home Economics Florida Extension Services Collection
Burt Altman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US