Archive for December, 2009

Ellen Supports FCCLA Environmental Ambassador STAR event

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Watch for future information on how FCCLA Advisors can use the history of the FACS profession to introduce the new FCCLA STAR Event Environmental Ambassador to their students. Ellen once wrote

“The quality of life depends upon the ability of society to teach its members how to live in harmony with their environment–defined first as family, then the community, then the world and its resources."

Ellen was noted in President Obama’s Women’s History Month proclamation in March of 2009 as one of four women who have helped save the planet.  Over 100 years ago, Ellen was realizing that clean air and clean water were significant issues for healthy families.  Her life was spent pursuing this in an effort to contribute to the quality of life for individuals, families and their communities.Download from Memory Stick 6.16.08 022

What would Ellen do today? 

Who can answer that question?

What could an Environmental Ambassador do?

Lucy M. Salmon, professor of history at Vassar—herself a renowned innovator—observed: “Mrs. Richards was among the very first to realize that the home affords an opportunity for scientific investigation and she became our first great pioneer home missionary… She discovered rich veins of interest where others had seen only prosaic humdrum duties, menial service, and uninspired, uninspiring household direction.”

Bringing science into the home, Richards hoped to “attain the best physical, mental, and moral development” for the family, which she believed was the basic unit of civilization.

What a WOW Day at the Smithsonian

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

When a dream comes true, often it is impossible to say what about the event was your most favorite.  This was the case last week when we went with “Ellen” to the Smithsonian on her birthday, December 3. For so many months, it seemed like an impossible dream to appear as Ellen on her birthday with her exhibit at the National Museum of American History.  Finally, through the efforts of  VA FACS teacher Diane Johnson and her husband Ken, we met the right folks who could make it happen, and  we were finally on our way. We had an entire 9 hours of rain on our way to Arlington, Virginia, but Thursday dawned clear, cool and sunny.  It was just perfect for a day at the museum.

SI Castle

Ken works for the Smithsonian in Budget and Management and his special tour for us, along with his insights into the total Smithsonian operation, were indeed a special treat. He actually works with the White House to advocate for the entire Smithsonian budget. We have visited numerous times, but this time, we learned so much more.  The Smithsonian actually encompasses 19 Museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoo.IMG_0025

Ken and Diane have lived all over the world as Ken was career military before assuming his position with the Smithsonian. His love for his country as well as a fondness for the Smithsonian was evident throughout our special tour.



After our tour of the Castle ( the original Smithsonian building) we hurried across the Mall to the American History Museum where we met Amy Bartow-Melia, Director of Public Programs for this museum.  Amy has been with the Smithsonian for 12 years and her knowledge as well as her passion were quite evident. She was joined by Susan Walther, Senior Public Program Coordinator. (right below)


Amy and Susan We were shown to the Salon where I left my costume to be used later for the performance. 






Before lunch, we were joined by FACS professionals from Virginia, long time friends Janet Phillips and Bev Card. JHanet, JOyce and Bev








After lunch, it was time to dress as Ellen and proceed on to her exhibit in the West Wing. Audience at SI This was  a perfect place to stand and share with museum visitors a small part of the remarkable story of Ellen IN HER OWN WORDS.  I have performed these words countless times, but never have I felt more inspired than I did standing beside Ellen at the Smithsonian on her birthday.



Joyce at Ellen's exhibit  best 

4 Young women

These four young women were so enthralled in the message from Ellen. I wish so much that they had told me their names.


After the presentation, we were treated to yet another back stage tour which included Historic Costumes, Vintage Jewelry and finally, the Quilts. We were hosted by three more passionate, knowledgeable members of the museum staff.  Doris, Kathy and NancyNancy with Latino dress   

(L to R) Doris, Katherine, Susan.


Nancy Davis is a Curator for the Division of Home and Community Life.

(L) Nancy with a quinceanera dress-this is a dress for Latino girls coming-of-age party at age 15. This is a very difficult piece to acquire in the collection as most young women want to keep their dress. Thousands upon thousands of dollars are spent to keep this Latino tradition for young girls.



Katherine Dirks is Associate Curator in the same Division with a special interest in WWI and WWII textiles. We were pleased to learn that Katherine is a former CFS Textiles grad from Purdue so we had fun sharing stores of our times back on campus. JOyce and Katherine Kathy showed us all of the equipment that they utilize to date various textiles.








Doris Bowman is an Associate Curator in the same Division, but her expertise is with the antique quilts and antique needlework tools.  Each place we visited held more fascinating treasures than the one before, and at day’s end, we could no more tell you our favorite as they ALL were.  What a fabulous time we had with dedicated museum staff willing to share these national treasures with us.  Ellen would have loved every minute of it as we did.quilt


quilt 2

Just two of the gorgeous old quilts that are stored in the Smithsonian collections.

Ellen returns to Smithsonian on her birthday

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

This week on December 3 is Ellen Swallow Richards’ birthday.  All across the country  family and consumer sciences professionals and their friends will be celebrating the birth 167 years ago of this remarkable woman who founded home economics.  Today we enjoy a much greater quality of life for our families and our communities because Ellen walked here on earth. We enjoy clean water, unadulterated foods and much more. In April you will remember we visited the newly renovated  Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  We were stunned to arrive in the West wing  and actually see the Vassar telescope that famous astronomer Maria Mitchell used over a century ago. This treasure has belonged to the museum since 1963 and now welcomes visitors to the science exhibit. Ellen was a student of Maria Mitchell’s at Vassar and was also in love with astronomy.  In fact, Ellen herself said she would have gone into astronomy as a field of study if only she had seen a practical use and a benefit to society. The equipment is just gorgeous, and we stood in awe at the significance of having this historical artifact on view for all to see.Vassar telescope Maria Mitchell

The telescope nearly trumped the Ellen Richards’ exhibit which we found just inside the Science in American Life  exhibition.  However, we were excited to arrive in front of a nearly life sized display of Ellen.  Of all the displays that could have been featured in this recently opened museum, we were delighted to see that Ellen was deemed important enough to carry over from a previous display. In celebration of March as National Women’s History Month,  President Obama proclaimed Ellen as one of four women credited with saving our planet with her focus on the environment.IMG_1832

At 1:00 on Thursday, December 3, Joyce (in costume) will be standing near the Ellen exhibit on the Museum’s first floor, reading selected writings, diary entries and Ellen’s letters.  Our hope is that this little added extra to the exhibit on her birthday will remind museum visitors what a remarkable life this women led and how our lives today have been impacted by her work over 100 years ago.





December 2009
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