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November 29 or 30, 1892 — Second Annual Ladies Night, Boot & Shoe Club, Banquet Hall, Vendome Hotel, Boston MA


I would like to have the gift of mind reading for a while for I think the very best speech would be to know what each one present expected to hear, here tonight. As your president has said, we have not come to talk over the science of domestics. A Domestic Science is something broader. It is a comfort to know that you believe there [can be] a science for the home.

But before there can be a science, there must be an art. The art of living has been giving a good deal of consideration, and for some time there has been formulating a science of living.

Perhaps no one is to blame for the fact that the science to teach people how to live [in their environment] has been so long in getting any attention. . . Men built houses long before they know how to live in them safely.

[There will be more “victims of science” in the future if we do not educate women with knowledge that will allow her to manage space, time, and technology and to educate her children on how to live in a rapidly changing environment.]

To relieve women from drudgery, fathers formerly sent [daughters] to finishing schools and gave them lessons in the fine arts. But all of these semi-polite accomplishments turned to dust and ashes literally and figuratively in the crucible of life . . .

They walled up the beneficent fireplaces and introduced airtight stoves and put washbowls in rooms to save steps, but they forgot to make the plumbing safe. The result has been to kill off all the delicate men, women and children . . . in greater numbers than any war has ever done.

[Then Richards attacked, not only the educational system that would permit this ignorance among men and women, but also the ignorance by which the learning environment itself was allowed to exist — “erecting improperly ventilated and unsanitary buildings” in which children are supposed to learn. “They do learn, you know. But they learn to grow up and create more of the same kind of environment in which they learned.

If that is the environment in which they learn, then that is the environment they learn to live in. How can we expect them to know, let along teach or live a better way?

[Then Richards introduced Mary Hinman Abel, who discussed environment from the concept of “Cooperative Housekeeping,” followed by remarks by Edward Atkinson, inventor of the Aladdin Oven.]

And now I ask you here tonight to stand sponsors of the christening of a new science and to give the same your fostering care and generous support.

For this knowledge of right living, we have sought a new name . . . as theology is the science of religious life and biology the science of [physical] life . . .  so let Oekology be henceforth the science of normal lives . . . the worthiest of all the applied sciences which teaches the principles on which to found . . . healthy . . . and happy life.



Source: “New Science. Mrs. Richards Names it Oekology: ‘Tis the Art of First-Class Living,” Boston Daily Globe, December 1, 1892.


Also: Ellen Swallow: The Woman Who Founded Ecology, by Robert Clarke, (Chicago: Follett Publishing Company) 1973, pp. 116-120.