Practice Babies: Background information when reading The Irresistible Henry House

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Irresistible Henry House

A Novel

by Lisa Grunwald

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2011, 448 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Practice Babies

Print Review

All it took was the unexpected image of a cute, bare-bottomed baby to set the wheels of The Irresistible Henry House in motion. While Lisa Grunwald was researching another book, she happened upon an online exhibition detailing the history of Cornell University's home economics program which ran from 1900-1969. Originally established as a way to apply science in areas of home, farm, and family, Cornell's home ec. program implemented the use of live babies to mirror real-life domestic settings.

Incredible? Though it's too outrageous to imagine the use of a live baby as a teaching tool in today's educational settings, that's precisely what went on in the "practice apartments" of Cornell's home economics program back in 1919. According to the Cornell site, the first practice baby was named Dicky Domecon, short for "domestic economy."

Borrowed from area orphanages and child welfare agencies, these practice babies were used to "replicate the full domestic experience" and to enact "the scientific art of childrearing." Because Domecon babies were raised under efficient conditions and with the latest in scientific child-rearing approaches, they were highly sought out by adoptive parents after they reached toddlerhood.

However, with changes in the field of child development - such as the development of attachment theory and the popularization of Dr. Spock's psychological/emotional approach - mothering philosophies shifted away from the strictly scientific and the demand for and interest in such home economic programs fizzled. Cornell's program ended in 1969 but there were other such programs throughout the country.

As a great companion piece for The Irresistible Henry House, try this 1951 promotional video for the home ec program at the Iowa State Teacher's College (glimpse a practice baby around minute 10):

The video may take a few moments to load. If you don't see anything, please check to make sure your computer is not blocking content from video sources.)


Image above: Bobby Domecon, 1920

Article by Megan Shaffer

This article was originally published in March 2010, and has been updated for the August 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...
  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...
  • Book Jacket: Dadland
    Dadland
    by Keggie Carew
    In her notable debut, Keggie Carew examines the life of her father Tom, a decorated war hero whose ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Lola
    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -