The Stories They Tell 4

Bertha E. Butts

We all know of the staggering male to female student ratio here at RIT, especially salient in STEM-related fields. As RIT, and many other schools, make strides to balance out the gender ratio in certain academic areas, have you ever wondered where and when female students started out at RIT? The answer lies in the Department of Domestic Science and Art, inaugurated in 1893 when RIT was the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (RAMI). This department offered female students opportunities in cooking, millinery, sewing, and dressmaking, with the prospect of becoming a teacher in these fields. One such student was Bertha E. Butts, dressmaking student at RAMI in 1904, with her impressive dress and scrapbook show-cased in this exhibition. Learn more about the history of domestic science and what it had to offer for women (and men!), and explore the legacy of women here at RIT through the story of Bertha E. Butts and the students of the Domestic Science Department.