UW-Stevens Point: Home Economics Timeline: Past To Present (1902-2002)
A celebration of 100 years of dynamic change in Home Economics
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A celebration of 100 years of dynamic change in Home Economics

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Compiled and written by Shari Van Domelen, class of 2002

Personal Information:

  • Born May 3, 1882 in Postville, Iowa
  • Attended rural schools in Iowa
  • Started her college education at Iowa University
  • Received both her bachelor�s and master�s degrees from Columbia University
  • Additional work at the Universities of Chicago and Hawaii
  • Traveled all around the United States visiting every state in the Union (including Alaska and Hawaii), every province of Canada, Europe, Central and South America, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
  • Passed away in 1969 at the age of 86
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Affiliations and Organizations:
  • Director of the Home Economics Division
  • President of the Stevens Point Business and Professional Women�s Club
  • Member of PEO Sisterhood
  • Member of Sigma Zeta (national science fraternity)
  • A state founder of Delta Kappa Gamma sorority, first state president, life member and honorary state member
  • First president of Sigma State, the local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma
  • Served as parliamentarian of the national organization 1940-42
  • Served on the national scholarships committee
  • Honorary member of the Wisconsin Home Economics Association
Career at Stevens Point Normal School:
  • Hired to head the Domestic Science Department (later the Home Economics Division) and clarify its role for Stevens Point Normal School in 1913, and remained in that position for 39 years.
  • Brought strong leadership and clear direction to the program.
  • Was vital to keeping the Home Economics program at Stevens Point
  • During her 39 years at Stevens Point, Miss Allen saw the Stevens Point Normal School change its name to Stevens Point Teacher�s College, then to Central State Teacher�s College, and then to Wisconsin State College.
  • Retired in 1952
An Active Career of Accomplishment:
  • She was the first female president of the college faculty.
  • Served as the faculty advisor to the Home Economics Club, which she helped to organize during her first year. She used the club, as well as other vehicles to promote Home Economics.
  • Helped to organize the Schoolmaster�s Club of Central Wisconsin although she was barred from it because of her sex.
  • Traveled with President Sims to eastern parts of the U.S. and Canada to study the space, equipment, and curricular experiences of several schools with strong domestic science programs. Upon returning to Stevens Point, they used the information they had gathered to support the proposed construction of the east wing of the main building on campus in 1914. This addition was a huge boost to the Home Economics program.
  • Resided as a supervisor at the John F. Sims Cottage, finished in 1915. The cottage was a duplex built to house two groups of four senior class women for a semester to give them actual practice in home management. At the time of its completion, the Cottage was one of the first new practice houses in the country and the only facility that could accommodate two groups at the same time with only one supervisor. Miss Allen was the first supervisor to allow the husbands of married senior home economics girls to stay with their wives in the practice house.
  • In 1916 Bessie May Allen, along with four of her students, traveled to Morristown, NJ to set up a program offering �balanced meals at a moderate cost for twenty-five people� (ten children and fifteen adults).
  • Instrumental in organizing the Wisconsin Home Economics Association. She gave stamina to the society when it was young and weak and as its president 1924-27, she guided them through their first three conventions.
  • During WW1, she conducted classes on war food usage to help with conservation of certain food items. She also prepared quarterly bulletins dealing with food conservation for the household.
Fighting For Home Economics:
  • In the 1930s, the regents voted to curtail the Home Economics program, but Bessie May Allen pulled her forces together to ensure that the decision was quickly reversed.
  • She was instrumental in the decision of the board to reinstate the major and minor of Home Economics on April 18, 1940. The Bachelor of Science degree as well as the Bachelor of Education degree could now be granted with the Home Economics major as well.
Leaving a Legacy:
  • Established an anonymous scholarship to recognize an outstanding junior student majoring in home economics. After her retirement, she gave her consent to having the award called the Bessie May Allen Scholarship.
  • About five years prior to her death, one of the two dining halls on campus was named in her honor-the Allen Center.

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