Today in History: Mary Swartz Rose Is Born

| October 31, 2017

171030_news_219x365In an article entitled, “Belief in Magic“, Mary Swartz Rose opens with a description of the mystical Vale of Avalon, ancient abbeys, and wonder-working relics. She ponders a recently-built cathedral (Riverside, 1930) overlooking the Hudson, as she references Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s assertion of “law-abiding world,” despite our common belief in “magical faith”, and then cites Dr. Morris Fishbein’s Shattering Health Superstitions. She writes, “A belief in magic is still quite widespread; who among us is quite free from it? And we do not want to be quite free. The common folk are all too ready to trust in the magical power of medicine or of treatment, and to think of doctors as wizards or magicians. It is fatally easy to believe what is convenient to believe…”

Her address at the annual dinner of the American Dietetics Association on November 7, 1932, was reprinted in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (vol. 9, no. 6, 1933) — exposing a number of nutrition “sciosophies” and dietary quackeries (from the eating of fish to improve your brain, to the overuse of vitamins, compounded by the high “juvenile budget” for candy…. it is Halloween, co-incidentally, complete with a few Harrys, Hermiones, and Wonderwomen). Her main point is that the fundamental principles of good nutrition must be more widely taught, encouraged, and adopted — more telling, that good nutrition is quite manageable, despite the odds — war, the Great Depression, and other negative influences. We, as educators and parents, can push these same points today in history.

An American laboratory scientist and educator in the fields of nutrition and dietetics, Mary Swartz Rose was born October 31, 1874 in Newark, Ohio. Swartz Rose received a B.S. in Household Arts from Teachers College, Columbia University and went on to Yale University, where she received her PhD, before returning to her alma mater to create the nation’s first nutrition program. Like John Dewey, she was a prolific author.

Mary Swartz Rose was a Professor of Household Arts from 1910 to 1923 and a Professor of Nutrition from 1923 to 1940 at Teachers College, Columbia University. She co-created the program in Nutrition at TC with Henry Sherman, a Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University over ninety years ago. In doing so, Rose became the first full-time person to develop a program in nutrition at an American university. Rose conducted extensive research on nutrition and dietetics. She designed the first nutrition laboratory devoted solely to training students in this field. In that laboratory, Rose trained others in her life’s work. Some of her studies involved bringing this knowledge to the elementary schools. Outside of the College, Rose was a founder of the American Institute of Nutrition and a member of the Technical Commission on Nutrition of the Health Organization of the League of Nations. Through these organizations she influenced the recommendations for developing the first dietary standards approved by scientists.  20171031_MarySwartzIsBorn_v3

The following articles are selected from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.


  • See here for books written by Mary Swartz Rose.
  • Explore the Mary Swartz Rose Collection in Pocketknowledge, the social, digital archive of Teachers College, Columbia University.
  • Read about the portrait of Mary Swartz Rose (painted by Ivan G. Olinsky and inspiration for the poster image above). Teachers College Record, Volume 38 Number 3, 1936, p. 247-247.


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