Though home economics started in the early 1900s as a way to professionalize domestic labor, giving women opportunities outside the home while simultaneously uplifting the value of "women's work" in society, by the 1960s the field had become a feminist pariah. As Megan J. Elias writes in Stir It Up: Home Economics in American Culture, figures like Betty Friedan "rejected outright the idea that housework could be fulfilling and implicitly condemned all projects that offered to help women find satisfaction in traditional housewivery."
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The Suffrage Cafeteria was one of as many as 11 street-front establishments Belmont opened in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Long Island in the early 20th century. Other venues hosted meetings and entertainment, but the cafeteria was known for its delicious food and affordability — Belmont also sold provisions through the café, usually at a few cents below market prices. This, as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “brought in men and women who might not otherwise be interested [in suffrage].” The tables reserved for men, as another newspaper noted, “were never empty.”
On July 11, 1871, she became one of the first women to receive a patent. Knight went on to patent at least 27 inventions (as well as many more that were never officially filed) and became something of a media sensation. She was one of the first women to be able to not only create a work of art or machinery but to also put her full name on it — though “M.E. Knight” appears on much of the official patent documentation, she also clearly wrote “Margaret” out in full. Knight was a rare role model for women who wanted careers in the male-dominated fields of mechanics and invention.