Women have long played an important role in the hotel and restaurant industry, furnishing much of the labor that kept these businesses operating. As employment opportunities for women expanded beyond domestic service during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, some aspired to higher positions. The Mid-West Hotel Reporter, an Omaha trade journal established in 1907 for hotelkeepers and restaurant owners, recognized the trend. Its issue of March 18, 1921, included a brief interview with Margaret Fedde, chairman of the University of Nebraska Home Economics Department, a post she filled until her retirement in 1950.
“In response to a demand for women trained to manage cafeterias, cafes, tea rooms, hotel dining rooms, dormitory dining rooms and other similar institutions, the University of Nebraska is now offering a course of study called institutional management. The purpose of the course is to train young women college students how to do the buying, serving, cooking and other general management work connected with a first-class dining room.
“According to Miss Margaret Fedde of the home economics department of the college of agriculture, there is an increasing demand for good home cooking among the American people who eat away from home.” Fedde, who had become chairman of the department several years before, in 1919, said, “This class has grown rapidly in the last few years due in part to the servant problem. Unable to employ satisfactory maids to prepare and serve the food in the home, large numbers of people are eating ‘out.’ Accustomed to home cooking, they patronize hotels, cafes and cafeterias that serve food with a home flavor.
“Letters [that] are coming to the home economics department from owners of hotel dining rooms, high school cafeterias, cafes and other kind of eating houses, indicate that there is a strong demand for women managers. There are already many successful women managers, Miss Fedde says.
“Among the subjects included in the new course are economics, accounting, business administration, marketing and institutional cookery and management. The students are given practical work in the woman’s commons, the dining room in the dormitories on the [Lincoln] city campus of the University and in the cafeteria at the college of agriculture.”