Agnes Ellen Harris

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Agnes Ellen Harris
Agnes Ellen Harris.jpg
Born(1883-07-17)July 17, 1883
DiedDecember 18, 1952(1952-12-18) (aged 69)
Years active1903–1952
Known fordeveloping Florida 4-H girls program

Agnes Ellen Harris (July 17, 1883 – December 18, 1952) was an American educator. She worked in education in Georgia, Florida, Texas, Washington, D.C. and Alabama, establishing Home Economics programs throughout the area. She was instrumental in founding "Tomato Clubs" in Florida, which were the precursor to the 4-H Youth Programs. She was one of the earliest practitioners of the field of Domestic Science and taught nutrition and health to women for fifty years. She was a charter member of the American Home Economics Association and served as a national officer in the 1920s. She was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame in 1972.


Agnes Ellen Harris was born on July 17, 1883 to James Coffee and Ellen (née Simmons) Harris[1] in Cedartown, Georgia.[2] She was a graduate of Georgia Women's College[3] and after completing her teachers certification, attended Oread Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. Oread was one of the few educational facilities at that time which were teaching the new science of Domestic Cooking.[1] From 1903 to 1908, Harris taught home economics in Georgia[2] and during her summers, she took further classes at Columbia University. In 1908, she became one of the charter members of the American Home Economics Association, for which she would serve as national vice-president between 1926 and 1929.[1]

As head of the Department of Home Economics at Florida State College for Women, Harris started a program in 1908 teaching canning fruits and vegetables to promote better nutrition. Through home demonstration programs, she taught rural women that canning would allow them to better utilize their farm harvests as well as sell their excess production for profit.[4] In 1912, she became the first home demonstration agent for the state of Florida[5] and began by starting "Tomato Clubs" for girls in 11 counties in Florida. The idea was to provide seeds for a crop that was easy to grow and teach young people how to plant, grow and sell for profit any tomatoes they could not eat.[6] Later, the "Tomato Clubs", and similar "Corn Clubs" which had been started for boys, became the 4-H Youth Organization of Florida.[7] Harris had continued her studies during the summers at Columbia University and graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in 1910.[1]

In 1919, Harris left Florida to become the director of the Home Economics program in Texas. After a year, she moved to Washington, D. C. and worked as a field agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.[3] While she was in Washington, Harris returned to school and completed her Master of Arts from Columbia in 1922.[1] After seven years in Washington, Harris accepted a position as Dean of Women at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She organized the home-ec school and became a dual Dean of Women and the Home Economics Department in 1929.[3] In 1941, Harris was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Alabama.[1] In 1945, she became solely responsible for the Home-Ec Department.[3]

Harris died on December 18, 1952 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama en route to a dinner at the University Club.[3]


A scholarship in her name was established by donations from former students, parents and teachers[8] and is awarded annually to full-time human environmental sciences graduate students on a merit basis.[9] In 1972, she was posthumously inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame.[10]

Published works[edit]

  • Harris, Agnes Ellen; Blanton, Annie Webb; Peek, Lillian (1920). Texas high schools: home economics. Austin, Texas: Department of Education.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Todhunter, E. Neige (2 May 1953). "Agnes Ellen Harris". College of Human Environmental Sciences. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University of Alabama. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Harris family papers". Savannah, Georgia: Georgia Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2015-10-02. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Dean Agnes Ellen Harris Is Victim of Heart Attack". Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The Tuscaloosa News. 19 December 1952. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  4. ^ Palmer, Darryl (7 November 2013). "Extension Can-Do". Gainesville, Florida: Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and University of Florida. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  5. ^ "Florida 4-H History Timeline" (PDF). Gainesville, Florida: IFAS Extension. 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  6. ^ Burnham, Marcia (11 November 1983). "4-H Started Out as Little Corn Clubs". Daytona Beach, Florida: Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  7. ^ Fletcher, Jovida (2 October 1994). "For The Yates Family, 4-h Is A Tradition - And A Way Of Life". Orlando, Florida: Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  8. ^ "Agnes Ellen Harris (1883-1952)". Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Alabama Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  9. ^ "Agnes Ellen Harris Scholarship (University of Alabama)". Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  10. ^ "1972 - Agnes Ellen Harris". Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Alabama Women Hall of Fame. Retrieved 3 October 2015.