Ruth Homan was the daughter of Lord Mayor of London and philanthropist Sir Sydney Waterlow (1822-1906). She took classes at the South Kensington School of Cookery and underwent basic nursing training at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London. In 1873 she married Francis Wilkes Homan but was widowed in 1880. Mrs Homan was elected to serve on the London School Board in 1891. She served as Chairman of the Tower Hamlets Divisional Committee and also as Chairman of the Domestic Subjects Sub-committee. By 1902 she was also Vice-chairman of the Industrial Schools Committee. In these capacities, Mrs Homan endeavoured to promote the teaching of cookery, laundry work, and homecraft. She was also active in related organisations such as the Poplar Board School Children's Boot and Clothing Help Society, of which she was treasurer, and the London Schools Dinners Association.
< Washing class at Tennyson Street Laundry Centre, Clapham [image copyright The Women's Library, London Metropolitan University]
The collection, comprising three albums, contains evidence of Mrs Homan's career as a member of the London School Board through press cuttings, printed material, and photographs that give an insight into domestic science teaching in London schools at the end of the nineteenth century. They will be displayed in 'Dirty Linen', an exhibition at The Women's Library on the subject of cleanliness (inspired by the Library's own Wash House foundations) and which reveals how a risky profession soon became an intrinsic part of education for girls and women.
The 'Dirty Linen' exhibition runs at The Women's Library from the 26th September to the 21st December 2002.
- Papers of Chrissie Bell (born 1897) a student at Glasgow & West of Scotland College of Domestic Science, 1916-1919
- Recipes and household hints collected in the 1920s and 1930s by Dorothy Mary Leak (1903-1989)
- Housekeeping book compiled in 1917-1923 by D McMurdo of Dumfries, Scotland
- Genesis Project access to women's history sources in the British Isles.
- Edinburgh College of Domestic Science (Heriot-Watt University Archives) collection description for records from 1933-1970.
- Queen's College Special Collection (Glasgow Caledonian University) reflecting the College's history at the forefront of domestic science teaching.
- School Dinners (The National Archives "Learning Curve") Why were school dinners brought in?
You can receive regular updates on our special features by joining our mailing list.