December 3 is FCS Day

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December 3 has been declared FCS Day. This day was selected because it’s the birthday of Ellen Swallow Richards. There was a question on Jeopardy a while back about her and (much to my friends’ amazement) I knew who she was and got it right. Why do I know about Ellen Swallow Richards? She’s the founder of Home Economics. Full disclosure: I have two degrees in Home Economics.

Picture of Ellen Richards

Image from American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (

FCS Day was started eight years ago by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) to honor and celebrate Richards, who was the first female graduate and faculty member of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her pioneering work in sanitary engineering and experimental research in domestic science laid a foundation for the science of home economics. She focused on applying scientific knowledge to address the needs of families with regards to water quality, food safety, and the safety of home environments. She was an activist for consumer education, nutrition, and child protection.

In 1909, she and a small group of women and men met in Lake Placid, NY, and created what became known as the American Home Economics Association. In 1994, the organization changed its name to the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences. This is an umbrella association for professionals working in the many fields of FCS.

Home Economists and Family and Consumer Science (FCS) professionals have influenced many significant consumer and social programs over the years. Some of these include researching and developing specifications for consumer goods and more descriptive labeling on textiles and standardizing sizes. They advocated for the National School Lunch Act, fostered the movement for preschool education, and researched and taught food handling and preparation to help families avoid spoilage and contamination of food. 

These professionals took the lead in teaching “life skills”—personal finance, nutrition and dietetics, human/child development, and housing and interior design. They also assisted in establishing home economics/FCS programs in college and universities.

The field of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) has been part of Cooperative Extension for more than 105 years. My grandmother shared her experiences learning from Extension’s Home Demonstration Agents during World War II. The name was changed to Home Economics Agents in the 1960s and to Family and Consumer Science Agents in the mid-1990s.

Despite the years, the name changes, and advances in technology, the goals, and mission of Extension Home Economics and Family and Consumer Science professionals have remained constant. We help people develop skills to lead better lives, build strong families, live well, live healthy, and make meaningful contributions to communities. 

I’m part of a dynamic FCS team at the N.C. Cooperative Extension in Brunswick County office. We provide education in the areas of healthy eating, physical activity, and chronic disease prevention as well as food access, food safety, and food preservation. Leading this team is FCS Agent, Meghan Lassiter. Angie Lawrence is our Nutrition Educator with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program. I primarily teach restaurant food safety. We also have a great group of Extension Master Food Volunteers.

Some of our upcoming educational programs include an in-person Safe Plates training for Food Safety Managers (December 13 and 14, 2021) and in January we’ve scheduled a virtual Med Instead of Meds program focusing on the Mediterranean diet. Lassiter currently has an online fitness program called L.I.F.T. (Lifelong Improvement Through Fitness Together) to improve strength and mobility at all ages. On the third Monday of each month, visit our Facebook page at noon for a live healthy food demonstration. Contact our office in Bolivia or visit our website for details on each of these offerings and more.

A quote from Richards: “Home Economics stands for the ideal home life for today unhampered by the traditions of the past and the utilization of all the resources of modern science to improve home life.” Home Economics or Family and Consumer Sciences is just as relevant and important now as it was when she began it over 100 years ago. As we try to follow in the footsteps of Ellen Swallow Richards, join us in the celebration of her legacy on FCS Day. 

So now, if there’s ever a question on Jeopardy again about Ellen Swallow Richards you, too, will know the answer. 

Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910-253-2610 or by email at