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Cottage Babies

This slideshow contains 13 items
1
Cottage baby Mike, Farmington State Normal School, ca. 1939

Cottage baby Mike, Farmington State Normal School, ca. 1939

Item 69632 info
Mantor Library at UMF

One of the most unique aspects of Home Economics education in the United States was the "practice baby." For students to truly understand the science of home economics and be prepared to teach others, they needed real life experience managing a household and caring for a child. Babies were used at some colleges as early as 1918.

F.S.N.S. did not have its first practice baby, known as the "Cottage baby," until 1927. Little is known about many of the babies.

The campus newspaper and yearbooks indicate some babies came from the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers.

The Home Ec director and the Cottage supervisor retrieved a baby from the home and took the child to the Cottage. Several babies were adopted after their stay in the Cottage.

Others babies came from local families and were returned to their homes after their Cottage stay.


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Home Ec students with Cottage baby, Farmington State Normal School, ca. 1939

Home Ec students with Cottage baby, Farmington State Normal School, ca. 1939

Item 69633 info
Mantor Library at UMF

At the start of the practice baby program at F.S.N.S., the baby was cared for by two senior students who lived in the Cottage and four others who were housed in the dormitory but spent their days in the Cottage.

By 1930, the Cottage was used exclusively as a "practice house" with the students sharing the four bedrooms and all of the students doing their Cottage rotation were able to live in.

The small group of students in residence each semester was meant to approximate the experience of the home life of a family of six people.

Some babies remained in the Cottage for most of the academic year; others had shorter stays. Turnover meant there were sometimes two babies in the Cottage during the course of the school year.


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Home Economics class with nurse, Farmington State Normal School, ca. 1930

Home Economics class with nurse, Farmington State Normal School, ca. 1930

Item 69692 info
Mantor Library at UMF

Practical experience was an important part of the Home Economics classroom curriculum as well. Students learned about child care, including infants. The school nurse was a key part of providing students with these skills.

Students learned the proper way to bathe a "baby" under the watchful eye of Nurse Ingeborg Johansen, who was the school's nurse from 1928 to 1945.


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Home Ec Cottage Living Room, Farmington State Normal School, 1936

Home Ec Cottage Living Room, Farmington State Normal School, 1936

Item 59810 info
Mantor Library at UMF

The students took pride in the Cottage and throughout the years raised funds to make improvements, redecorate or purchase furniture and other small items. The Home Ec Club raised funds for a library that was housed in the Cottage.

The students became quite attached to the Cottage baby in their care and often made clothing or knitted items for the child.


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Cottage baby with student nurse, Farmington, ca. 1947

Cottage baby with student nurse, Farmington, ca. 1947

Item 59814 info
Mantor Library at UMF

For many girls, their stay in the Cottage was their first experience caring for a baby, and they found it very challenging - especially those 5 a.m. feedings!


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Students with

Students with "Cottage Baby," Farmington, ca. 1950

Item 59817 info
Mantor Library at UMF

The students shared responsibility for running the Cottage household, including budgeting for and preparing meals, planning and hosting luncheons, teas, and dinners for special guests, maintaining the house, and caring for the baby.

This group of students are relaxing in the Cottage living room with their baby.


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Miss Benjamin and Cottage Baby Linda, Farmington State Teachers College, ca. 1952

Miss Benjamin and Cottage Baby Linda, Farmington State Teachers College, ca. 1952

Item 69490 info
Mantor Library at UMF

In 1944, there was a moratorium on Cottage babies because there was no practice house director. There was no baby until the new director was hired the following year.

In 1945, Mrs. Marion Stover Leighton became the practice house adviser and her son Terry was the cottage baby. She and Terry lived in the Cottage for a year while her husband was away in the military. Miss Helen Wheling was in charge of the Cottage from 1945 – 1949.

Miss Evelyn Benjamin took charge of the Cottage in 1949. Like her predecessors, Miss Benjamin cared for the baby while the students were in class.

Here she is with one of the Cottage babies from 1952-53, Linda.


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Baby Peter learning to walk, Farmington State Teachers College, ca. 1951

Baby Peter learning to walk, Farmington State Teachers College, ca. 1951

Item 70565 info
Mantor Library at UMF

Students on Cottage duty spent time helping their little charges learn new skills, such as walking and talking.

Here is Peter learning to walk with the assistance of student Pat Hurley.


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Cottage baby Joy with

Cottage baby Joy with "Mimi", Farmington State Teachers College, 1950

Item 70579 info
Mantor Library at UMF

In addition to the care they received in the Cottage, the baby were also provided with play time experiences that a typical baby would enjoy.

This is Joy, bundled up for a sleigh ride, with F.S.T.C. student "Mimi."


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Baby John and Miss Benjamin, Farmington State Teachers College, 1950

Baby John and Miss Benjamin, Farmington State Teachers College, 1950

Item 70583 info
Mantor Library at UMF

One amusing account written by a cottage student in 1950 tells of the arrival of baby John (just two month old at the time), brought from Bangor by longtime Home Economics program director Mabel Hastie and Cottage Director Evelyn Benjamin.

Miss Hastie was invited to dinner, and "due to some mishap in the kitchen, John's milk was served as a beverage! At about nine o'clock that evening, Miss Benjamin was preparing to feed him and lo - no baby formula! The formula had traveled from Bangor in an ordinary milk bottle and upon arriving in Farmington it found its way to our refrigerator among many other ordinary looking bottles. It was labeled, but no one saw the label!"


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Cottage baby John, Farmington State Teachers College, 1951

Cottage baby John, Farmington State Teachers College, 1951

Item 70567 info
Mantor Library at UMF

Here is little John at age 7 months. He certainly has grown under the watchful eyes of the students. John remained in the Cottage until June 8, and then left for his new home.

According to a Home Ec diary letter by one of the girls, “the students were sad to see John go—who wouldn’t be? His blond curls, blue eyes, his laugh, and everything about him that made him John will never be forgotten by us.”


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Home Ec Christmas, Farmington State Teachers College, 1957

Home Ec Christmas, Farmington State Teachers College, 1957

Item 69689 info
Mantor Library at UMF

Over the years, the students hosted many social occasions in the Cottage, including formal dinners, Halloween and Christmas parties, and informal teas for the next Cottage group.

This group of students is enjoying the Cottage Christmas tree with baby Judy in 1957. The students pictured here include: Meg Skillings, Wilma Meyers, Ellen Dunn, Carletta Nevers, Jackie Cox and Shirley York.


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Cottage baby Brent with students, Farmington State Teachers College, 1959

Cottage baby Brent with students, Farmington State Teachers College, 1959

Item 69688 info
Mantor Library at UMF

The Cottage baby practice continued for many years at F.S.N.S., with successions of students caring for babies as an integral part of their Home Economics education.

By the late 1950s, the tradition of a baby in permanent residence at the Cottage was waning. An infant living in the Cottage was slowly replaced by the use of a "day baby."

The infant of a college employee or from a local family would be delivered to the Cottage in the morning, cared for throughout the school day by students, then collected by the parent and taken home for the night.

The last baby in the "Cottage baby" program at University of Maine at Farmington was in 1971.


This slideshow contains 13 items