From Bevier to Christopher to YOU: Our Historical Roots

Isabel Bevier Painting

Today we read about countries that limit or prohibit women from getting an education. We take it as a given that women should have a chance for an education! But that hasn’t always been the case even in the United States. In 1900 in the United States there were few opportunities for young women to obtain a college education. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a land-grant college, was one of the pioneers in providing higher education to women. Professor Isabel Bevier, whose portrait hangs in the building named for her, Bevier Hall, 905 S. Goodwin (the location of our department’s main office), was hired to establish a program in Household Science for young women in 1900.

Miss Bevier created a nationally recognized program in Home Economics that provided a college degree for thousands of young women through the 20th century. Faculty in Home Economics revolutionized our understanding of family life and created the scientific study of child development, nutrition, family economics, sanitation and many other topics. Home Economics programs have gone through many changes, but the Department of Human Development and Family Studies is a direct and proud heir to the tradition of the scientific study of children, families and communities. (For a more extensive history of Bevier see this dissertation, chapter 4, pages 159-224.)

Interior of Child Development Center in 1955

Another milestone in our history was the creation of a “child study lab” at the University of Illinois in 1941. The first "child development lab" was in the Women’s Building (known today as the English Building) on the main Quad. Ms. Frances Perkins was the first director of the Lab and students learned about child development first hand. In 1955 the Child Development Laboratory (1105 West Nevada) building was built.

The Child Development Laboratory (known as CDL) included observation deck so that students and researchers could observe the children. In 2003 an additional Early Child Development Laboratory Building (1005 West Nevada) was designed and erected to provide child care to children between the ages of six weeks and 3 years of age. Today undergraduate students from over 20 programs and departments learn about children and gain their first experiences working with children in the CDL/ECDL.

Exterior of Child Development Lab

In order to create more opportunities for students to learn about families, Ms. Doris Kelley Christopher, an alumnus and the founder and chairman of The Pampered Chef ®, Ltd. provided a generous gift that allowed us to build Christopher Hall which is headquarters for the Family Resiliency Center that includes a unique family observation research home, The Autism Program, a resource center, modern classrooms, and offices and lab space for faculty and graduate students.

Now over 100 years since the creation of our program, we continue to provide students with a chance to learn about children and families and to provide new insights about quality child care, healthy family interactions and positive human development. You can help write the next chapter in this history by becoming a student in our programs or providing support for scholarships for future Beviers and Christophers!