“C” is for Cornell and the Practice Babies..
In the early 1900’s to 1960’s women went to college to learn how to be homemakers. They were taught the most up-to-date scientific and cost-efficient home-economics. At Cornell they had Practice Apartments where eight women lived with a resident advisor each semester. In 1919 they started teaching childcare on real babies. Babies were leased from local orphanages for one to two years. Dicky “Domecon” was the first practice baby and stayed for two years.
In 1919, the first practice baby, named Dicky Domecon for “domestic economy,” came to Cornell. Cornell secured infants through area orphanages and child welfare associations. Babies were nurtured by the students according to strict schedules and guidelines, and after a year, they were available for adoption. Prospective adoptive parents in this era desired Domecon babies because they had been raised according to the most up-to-date scientific principles.
In 1952 Life Magazine featured the program at Cornell and speaks about Betty Ann Jacques who took care of 5 month old Denny “Domecon” for one week.
Lisa Grunwald wrote a novel titled “The irresistable Henry House” about one of the Domecon babies. An interview with the author about the book at CBS below discussing the life-long impact of multiple mothers had on the Domecon babies and how many babies were used this way.