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: Forest Dark
    Forest Dark
    by Nicole Krauss
    In Forest Dark, Nicole Krauss presents parallel stories of two people who leave New York to stay in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Amber Shadows
    The Amber Shadows
    by Lucy Ribchester
    The Amber Shadows sweeps readers into the realm of World War II-era Britain where Honor "Honey" ...
  • Book Jacket: Midwinter Break
    Midwinter Break
    by Bernard MacLaverty
    Northern Ireland's Bernard MacLaverty is the author of five novels and multiple short story ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Twelve-Mile Straight
    by Eleanor Henderson

    An audacious epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford

    Inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle's epic 1909 World's Fair.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If the Creek Don't Rise

If the Creek Don't Rise

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y Can't M A S P O O A S E

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.