Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis




Public History

First Advisor

Allison C. Marsh


This thesis explores the career of Kate Brew Vaughn from her ascent as unknown homemaker to spokeswoman to a nationally syndicated columnist. Vaughn's professional life revealed the rise of a celebrity home expert and her role in propagating domestic ideals through consumption in the early twentieth century.

In recognizing and promoting middle-class white women's new role as consumers, home economists advocated for a modern domesticity within the emerging culture of consumption. Because this objective converged with and underscored similar goals by corporations and government agencies, women such as Vaughn found opportunities to embark on careers as public figures who promoted a commercialized message of domestic bliss. In doing so, Vaughn came to be seen as an expert in household affairs. Piecing together Vaughn's professional life with newspaper accounts, encyclopedic entries, archival documents, census records and an assortment of publications written by her, this paper explores the equivocal meaning of an expert within the domain of home economics.

This thesis situates Vaughn within the changing role of an expert as tenuously defined by the home economics movement from 1899 to 1933. The paper highlights the malleable and ambivalent classification of the home expert during this period and explores how shifting meanings ultimately helped transform Vaughn into a prominent home economist. This study argues that overlapping objectives among home economists, business and the government helped legitimize Vaughn's expertise on domestic matters within a repackaged and commercialized message of domestic bliss and modernity.


© 2010, Ruth Lai Yee Chan