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Richardson, Anna Euretta

Published onOct 14, 2021
Richardson, Anna Euretta

(September 5, 1883 - February 3, 1931)

Quick Facts

Former Dean of Home Economics.


Anna E. Richardson was Dean of the Division of Home Economics at Iowa State College from 1923 to 1927. Her tenure was short but her contribution great. Her life was also short but full. A gracious lady with the culture of the Old South, she was born in Charleston, South Carolina, September 5, 1883, and died on February 3, 1931 in Washington, D.C., of a heart attack while she was working on a White House Conference report on education for home and family life.

After receiving the BS from the Peabody College for Teachers at Nashville, Tennessee, she spent the next few years alter­nating study at the University of Chicago and Columbia University with teaching in high schools in the South, at Agnes Scott College at Decatur, Georgia, and at the University of Texas.

Miss Richardson earned the MA from Columbia Uni­versity in 1911. Early in her career she demonstrated unusual ability as a teacher and administrator. In 1917 she entered the field of Home Economics Education as one of three women employed by the new Federal Board for Vocational Education to develop its home eco­nomics service under the new Smith-Hughes Act.

Later she became chief of the Home Economics Education Service with the Federal Board, a position which brought her into close personal association with home economics departments of colleges and schools throughout the country. Her philosophy regarding "vocational home economics" recognized that homemaking and wage-earning are not mutually ex­clusive fields of work for a woman, but that increasingly in every social level, woman's cycle includes both experiences. Miss Richard­son saw many opportunities for women in the educational, business, and social world.

She resigned her position on the Federal Board in 1922 to be­come dean of the Division of Home Economics at Iowa State College (now University). Fortunately for Iowa State, the positions she had held enabled her to glean a great fund of information as to methods and policies in vogue elsewhere.

Miss Richardson had poise, dignity, and sensitivity to the needs of others. She had a sense of perspective, could see people and things in their relative significance and determine the real importance of different issues. Never anxious for the limelight, she most enjoyed directing from behind the scenes. Others could do the conspicuous things. Her chief interest was that the foundations should be firm and that workers should proceed in the right direction.

She was careful to make sure that any changes in her depart­ments were well thought out so that when they were put into effect, corrections would not have to be made immediately. Thinking things out quietly and unhurriedly gave her decisions and judgments weight and influence and her way of offering them as a friendly con­tribution to the other person's thinking made them easily accepted.

Miss Richardson was endowed with capacity for growth, and an eager and alert mind. Her experience with Home Economics gave her a rich background for the development of the Division of Home Economics at Iowa State. Her numerous biographies lead one to be­lieve that her greatest strength rested on her personality and character.

Mary Sweeny, who knew Miss Richardson well, said that many a teacher who was growing up professionally came to realize that her thinking was different, her plans larger, her progress more confident because Miss Richardson had listened with understanding to her scarcely articulate hopes and plans for her work. Her fine adminis­trative ability, good cheer, her faculty of meeting people and dealing with them pleasantly, her affection for her colleagues and her students, and her high ideals assured her success.

A warm welcome awaited Miss Richardson in Ames. Everyone agreed that President Pearson expressed it well when he said, "We feel that Miss Richardson is exactly the right person to carry on the development of the work so excellently built up by Dean Catherine MacKay."

Miss Richardson's first task at Iowa State was to plan the $500,000 addition to the Home Economics Building and to remodel the old building. Her familiarity with home economics buildings the country over must have been a great asset. She and her associates worked together untiringly on this project.

For her work, Miss Richardson was to find strong support from the Home Economics faculty of 45 resident and 18 extension staff who were at Iowa State when she came. The pressure of making plans for the building did not deter Dean Richardson from the search for additional staff to strengthen the teaching and to develop new areas of work. Most of these hires served until their retirements and helped to give Home Economics at Iowa State its strong reputation.

Course offerings were expanded and the foundations laid for the future departmental structure. Three home management houses were established on the campus. Babies became members of the Home Management House group. In 1924 a nursery school was estab­lished through a five-year grant from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fund. Projects were planned for funding through the 1925 Purnell Bill that supported Home Economics research. Dean Richardson realized the importance of graduate work and laid "broad and secure" foundations for it.

She effectively communicated to others the expanding opportuni­ties open to Home Economics graduates. Miss Richardson's enthu­siasm, mastery of her subject, and devotion to it was backed by her per­sonality, dignified home economics education at Iowa State and at other institutions.

Miss Richardson had long been interested in the development of a new area, child care, and had helped to give it a good start at Iowa State College. She resigned her position to become field secretary in child care and pa­rental training for the American Home Economics Association, a new research position made possible by a Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation grant. She planned to study the newer trends in Home Economics as they related to the problems of child care, family life and parental education and to analyze and make available the work that had been done to reach girls and women through Home Economics. She made a nationwide investigation of this field and prepared a bulletin, Child Development and Parental Education in Home Economics.

Like Dean MacKay, Miss Richardson was a recognized leader in education for homemaking in the United States and left a strong heritage to Iowa State.

After leaving Iowa State in 1926, Dean Richardson became a field worker in child development and parental education for the American Home Economics Association. In 1930, the University of Maryland gave her an honorary doctor of science degree.

Dean Richardson died of heart failure in February of 1931.

Excerpted from A Century of Home Economics at Iowa State University by Ercel Sherman Eppright and Elizabeth Strom Ferguson; edited by Katherine Svec

Selected Sources

Anna E. (Anna Euretta) Richardson Papers, RS 12/1/12, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.

Iowa State University “People of Distinction” online exhibition.

Kronsage, Hilde (1933) "Anna Richardson, Educator...," The Iowa Homemaker: Vol. 13 : No. 8 , Article 9.
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Richardson, Anna E. (1927) "The Place of The Child," The Iowa Homemaker: Vol. 7 : No. 6 , Article 2.
Available at:

Richardson, Anna E. (1926) "The Purnell Bill," The Iowa Homemaker: Vol. 6 : No. 4 , Article 2.
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