A Celebration of Women Writers

"Food for Students." by Mrs. Ellen H. Richards (1842-). p. 713.
From: The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893, With Portraits, Biographies and Addresses. Edited by Mary Kavanaugh Oldham Eagle, 1854-1903. Chicago: Monarch Book Company, 1894.


The success of a state or nation, as well as its wealth, depends on the energy and capacity of its citizens. Schools, colleges and universities are founded and maintained in order that students may grow up into successful men and women with energy to spare for the nation's good beyond that required to sustain their own life.

The only known source of this valuable human energy is derived from the food eaten and converted in the human machine into work, whether this work be thinking or lifting weights. So human force, power, heat, work, thought, come from the assimilation of food.

If double work is required of a horse he is given double feed. The young student has double work to mature his own physical body and to learn to think great thoughts at the same time. All work is one; work means expenditure of energy. No sane engineer would start out with a World's Fair train without coal enough to run his engine. No sane man would begin to paint a great picture, invent a great machine without force enough to accomplish his aim.

Since this fact is now perfectly well established, it should be recognized by all educators that good thinking, like good rowing, required proper feeding.

A cow is worth to the state perhaps a hundred dollars a year, a trained mind one hundred thousand dollars a year. A nation which so carefully feeds its cattle should take care of its young men and women with promising brains. In fact, the future of our nation may be said to depend on the feeding of the students now in the schools.

Therefore the dietary of the college student should be a subject of careful study by every college faculty, and as great care should be exercised in selecting the steward, who is, in fact, to determine the mental standard of all the students, as in selecting the professor of Greek or history. When the academic world becomes convinced of the importance of this factor, we shall see a race of American students far outstripping all others.

Herein lies a new problem in the conservation of energy, and of that most productive of all forms of energy, that of human thought.

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Mrs. R. H. Richards ("Ellen Henrietta Swallow") was born in Dunstable, Mass., in 1842. She was educated at the public schools, Westford Academy, Westford, Mass.; Vassar College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology; received from Vassar in 1870 A. B.: in 1873 A. M. and S. B. from Institute of Technology in 1873. She married Robert H. Richards, Professor of Mining Engineering and Metallurgy in the Institute of Technology. Her special work has been in the interest of sanitary science, particularly in reference to the water supply. Her principal literary works are: "The Chemistry of Cooking and Cleaning Food Materials and their Adulterations," "First Lessons in Minerals," and "Domestic Economy in Public Schools." Her profession is that of instructor in sanitary chemistry in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her postoffice address is Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Mass.

* What appears here is but an abstract of the address delivered before the Woman's Congress.


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