Myrtle Weldon (1890-1971) and Family and Consumer Sciences Extension in Kentucky

Historical Marker #2444 honors the University of Kentucky's Family and Consumer Sciences Extension program and Myrtle Weldon (1890-1971), an influential Family and Consumer Sciences extension educator.

The field of Family and Consumer Sciences focuses on improving the quality of individual and family life through education, research, and outreach. By fostering individual and familial strengths, it addresses life's problems while emphasizing the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. In 1914, the University of Kentucky's Family and Consumer Sciences Extension began with a statewide staff of seventeen women hired for the summer to focus on canning. Since the beginning of the Cooperative Extension Service in Kentucky, Family and Consumer Sciences, formerly known as Home Economics, has emphasized programs related to the needs of the local community. Food production, preservation, safety, and storage are examples of the first programs provided. Family and Consumer Sciences has continued to evolve with current programs targeting local needs related to health, the aging population, financial stability and leadership development. Each of Kentucky's 120 counties now has at least one Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent.

Myrtle Weldon is credited for envisioning the Kentucky FCS extension program as it has developed to this day. Raised on a farm near Rockford, Illinois, Weldon earned a degree in home economics and a teaching certificate from Rockford College in 1914. Six years later, she earned a graduate degree in economics from Columbia University. After completing her graduate degree, Weldon served as the home demonstration agent for the Illinois Cooperative Extension Service before becoming the assistant state leader of home demonstration work at the University of Illinois.

In June 1924, Weldon was hired as the state leader of the University of Kentucky's home demonstration program, which then consisted of twenty-four county agents. Weldon's interests focused on improving the well-being of women, especially farm women at the county level. She campaigned for financial assistance for home demonstration work through the county fiscal courts and helped organize homemaker clubs, which were established in most of the counties with agents by the end of her first year. Under her direction, the Kentucky Federation of Homemakers, now known as the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association, was formed in 1932 to unify the efforts of the individual clubs. This volunteer organization works to improve the quality of life for families and communities through leadership development, volunteer service, and education.

During her tenure at UK, Weldon focused on forming partnerships with other agencies that worked with farm families and provided education programs to families with limited resources. During World War II, she worked to promote the Women's Land Army, an organization that recruited women to do farm work ordinarily performed by men, who had been called to military service. Her strong belief in the future of rural women and her determination helped the organization grow nearly three times in size by the time of her retirement in 1955.