Portrayal of Ellen Swallow Richards with Joyce Miles

Welcome to Connect FCS Ed, thank you so much for listening. I’m your host Barbara Scully. On today’s episode, I have an amazing guest with me, her name is Joyce Miles, she is a fellow Purdue University and Florida State University graduate. She comes from Jacksonville, Florida. She retired in 1997 from a long tenure as an education administrator in Family Consumer Sciences education, career and technical vocation education. Joyce Miles is now retired and very happily traveling around and researching anything and everything that has to do with Ellen Swallow Richards, and she is also the biographical researcher in Ellen’s life. What a privilege and joy to to have Joyce here with me sharing her passion for our history and how relevant it is today in our body of knowledge when it comes to Family and Consumer Sciences.


•  My husband also retired from his program, and we spend our time when students are here, working with students on campus as full-time volunteers. We have a number of advisory boards that we’re on, we spend a lot of time with student life, student life covers everything but sports and academics, so this is all the musical organizations, all of the housing units. We both lived in cooperative housing, these are small units, anywhere from 15 to 40 people living in one house and they share the duties and learned all the life skills that many of us learned at home. Today, too many are not learning in them at home., so we learned them in school. We work with those students, there’s about 400 students in 11 cooperatives, so we work a lot with that. The pandemic, of course, was a blip on our radar, like it was on everyone else’s… We were not allowed to be on campus, the students were sent home the second semester in 2020, and then all semester they came back, but we could not… So we learned how to zoom and learn how to connect vicariously.  (3:00)

•  Well, and when I look back, it was a question that hit my mind right off with a lot of people  maybe questioning why we spend so much time looking at the history. Shouldn’t we be looking ahead pushing forward? And there’s some thought to that, but I think in our profession, particularly, we have such a rich history, and there are so many people practicing today who maybe don’t even know that rich history, The fact that the science background was so grounded in… I think about the science courses I took here at Purdue, I could have been a science teacher. In fact, one of my roommates was a science teacher, that wasn’t the way I wanted to go, but I certainly had the background to do that. I think the more I did the study in the history, the more proud I became of what I chose to do for a life skill, a lifetime of working… I don’t know that I thought about that when I was practicing, I taught for a very short length of time and then spent all the rest of my time as a supervisor for Family and Consumer Science and a huge school system in Jacksonville. (7:16)

•    I’m with the Historical Society, and we found an old trunk in a farm house, and once we finally opened the trunk and got around to looking to see what was in it, there was this journal in there.  The journal was written by a woman named Eliza Huan, she talked about Ellen Richards and she had pictures of Ellen Richards. So this person was asking me if I knew how that material got to New Hampshire for one thing. Who was the woman who was writing about Ellen Richards and publishing the pictures? So we did quite a little bit of research, it turns out this person was a neighbor of Ellen Richards, and they rode the trolley car together. Ellen lived in what was the suburb of Boston, and would ride down to the Back Bay, which is where it was back in the late 1800s, and they wrote together, and so Allen invited her to go on weekend day trips, and this was a journal, a handwritten journal of those day trips. (15:06)

•  She is still at the forefront, she would have been practicing before we ever had labeling. There’s the stories about her working on her father’s store, and they would come in and they’d order saleratus or something, which was the same thing as baking soda. And then they would order something else over here, and she said, I get them out of the same bag, she said they’re the same thing, and so she would have been hot on it for labeling and then teaching people to read the labels. We take for granted the labeling that is now on everything, and I have went to appreciate the bar coding on it, now, I am a returning Weight Watchers person, and now with your little phone, you put the bar code up there and it tells you exactly how many points in that particular item.  (24:12)

•   Your question, did I ever have a clue about what I would get into?  I had no idea. I mean, I literally turned one bedroom in my house into Ellen’s room. All of my archives things, I bought a lot of period pieces, not furniture so much as small pieces, that I could set the stage.  And then, in addition to the documentary, I did a 45-minute presentation in her own words, and I traveled all over the country and Europe actually doing that presentation. I had a 1911 costume made by one of your Washington AAFCS members, Andy Lombardo. And actually, the whole room was turned into Ellen’s room. (30:18)


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• Email Joyce: JoyceMiles@aol.com
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joyce.b.miles.3
• Archive Documentary: https://archive.org/details/Ellen_Swallow_Richards
SEPTEMBER 15, 2021

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