Second year M.A. History and Philosophy of Science student at Oregon State University (OSU), Kathleen McHugh, is set to present at several national conferences this spring. She will be presenting at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Annual Conference (PCA/ACA), the James A. Barnes Graduate Student History Conference (Barnes), and the University of Wisconsin Reproductive History Symposium (Wisconsin).
While each presentation will be tailored to the conference theme, all of her presentations are based on aspects of her thesis work which explores the science of home economics courses in the early part of the twentieth century at Oregon Agricultural College (Oregon State University’s name at the time) primarily by examining the work of Ava Milam, the Dean of Home Economics during that time.
Since nearly completing her M.A. (she will graduate in March 2022), McHugh has been eager to find ways to frame her work through different lenses, and the wide variety of conference themes will allow her to do just that.
At PCA/ACA, McHugh will present a paper entitled “‘Where Baked Potatoes Took First Place’: The Oregon Agricultural College Tearoom at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.” That paper is about the OAC tearoom at the 1915 World’s Fair and stems directly from her thesis chapter on the same subject, where she argues that Ava Milam created a domestic space where women could exhibit advancements in scientific cookery without challenging contemporary gender roles.
At Barnes she will present a paper entitled “Creating Domestic Spaces at World’s Fairs: The Rumford Kitchen and Oregon Agricultural College Tearoom.” That paper examines two case studies of home economists serving scientifically prepared foods to fairgoers. In that paper she argues that women used their domestic duty of feeding others to showcase advancements in scientific cookery to national audiences.
At Wisconsin she will present at a paper entitled “Scientific Mothers and Better Babies: Practice Babies as a Method of Scientific and Eugenic Child-Rearing” where she argues that practice houses (a kind of dormitory for students in the program) provided an alternative form of childrearing for women who were incapable of caring for their children. She also makes the connection that practice houses promoted a form of eugenics by encouraging scientific methods to be used to create healthier babies.
McHugh conducted the research for these conferences (and her thesis) amidst the backdrop of COVID. While this limited her ability to obtain information from certain places, such as remote historical societies, she was lucky to have access to Milam’s papers, which are located at OSU’s Special Collection and Archives Research Center.
These conferences are not McHugh’s only service to the profession. She has presented at the Phi Alpha Theta regional conference in 2021. She served as a judge for Oregon History Day and most recently she has been working with the Oregon Jewish Museum and Holocaust Education Center helping with their “Chronicling These Times” project.
After completing her M.A. this spring, McHugh hopes to get a job at a museum and will work on condensing her thesis into article length so that she can submit it for publication. And as for McHugh’s advice for others who want to be as prolific as her? She says that since there is no harm in applying, apply for everything. That strategy certainly has worked for her.
CATEGORIES: Graduate Students