Founded in 1938, the Maryland Extension Homemakers Council (MEHC), now known as the Maryland Association for Family and Community Education (MDAFCE), was established to educate rural women of the state of Maryland through an organized fashion with the assistance of the Cooperative Extension Service. This was accomplished through various activities supported by the MEHC and the Cooperative Extension Service such as home demonstration work and the Rural Women's Short Course (RWSC).
Home demonstration work in Maryland began in 1862 with the creation of land-grant universities under the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. Home demonstration programs educated the state's rural population who otherwise did not have easy access to transportation or institutions of higher education. Men and women with knowledge about various subjects educated others within their local areas, thus disseminating knowledge across a larger population. This coincided with the establishment of local homemakers and rural women's clubs that hosted these educational sessions. In 1914 the Smith-Lever Act provided funds for the establishment of an extesnion service at each land-grant institution. The Cooperative Extension Service is a partnership between the federal government, the land grant college, and the state's population which is cooperatively financed and cooperatively administered.
The Home Demonstration Department at the University of Maryland was actively involved in supervising home demonstration work throughout the state. This department was comprised of the state home demonstration agent, a clothing specialist and district agent, a household management specialist and district agent, a girls' club agent, county home demonstration agents, and an African American home demonstration agent. The State Home Demonstration Agent was responsible for meeting with other agents and specialists to plan programs as well as review the monthly itinerary of each agent. Specialists created instruction sheets in their area of expertise. The state agent and district specialists also visisted the counties to assist county agents, attend meetings, train new agents, and instruct local leaders of rural women's clubs. County home demonstration agents were responsible for disseminating knowledge throughout their respective counties by visiting local rural women's clubs as well as the county federations. County federations brought women from the different clubs together to discuss progress and community issues. As Maryland women expressed more interest in home demonstration work, counties provided additional funding to support these demonstrations as well as local homemakers clubs. By the 1920s, home demonstration work was proving to be a successful investment in the state's agricultural business as it improved the lives of not only rural women but also the lives of their families and surrounding communities.
On January 25, 1923 Governor Albert C. Ritchie held an agricultural conference in Frederick, Maryland, to design a state agriculture program which would meet the needs of Marylanders. Women attending the conference, all of whom participated in rural women's clubs or the extension service, requested that the state home an annual Rural Women's Short Course (RWSC) at the University of Maryland, which they had previously done for rual men in the state. The University of Maryland agreed to lend their staff and facilities to the program. The Home Demonstration Department at the University of Maryland, College Park agreed to the RWSC as part of the 1923 program.
At the time, Venia M. Kellar was the designated State Home Demonstration Agent supervising all home demonstration work in the state. Kellar started home demonstration work in 1917 in Dorchester County, Maryland. After arriving at the University of Maryland, College Park, Kellar began supervising girls' 4H clubs in addition to her home demonstration responsibilities. Ms. Kellar went on to become Assistant Director of the Home Demonstration Department, as well as Head of the State Home Economics Department. She is credited with being the person who started and successfully ran the RWSC until her retirement in 1954.
The first RWSC was hosted at the University of Maryland, College Park from June 18-June 22, 1923. Women attending the RWSC were either home demonstration agents or members of a rural women's club. Classes focused on subjects such as clothing, foods, household management, canning, health, dairying, and parliamentary law. Staff at the University of Maryland, College Park also organized social functions and educational trips for the short course. Due to the success of the program, as well as the enthusiasm of its participants, the university agreed to continue the program in future years.
The RWSC continued throughout the twentieth century and enrollment increased at a rapid pace. The RWSC started with 250 women in 1923 but quickly increased to approximately 1000 women attending each year. As time passed, classes were aimed to educate women in areas such as public speaking, politics, and family communication. In 1955 the course began to be known as College Week for Women to reflect the change in both the aim of the program as well as the classes taught. The program was shortened in 1972 from a week to three days and underwent another name change, calling itself College Days. Starting in 1979, College Days moved away from the University of Maryland, College Park campus to other colleges within the state including Mount Saint Mary's, St. Mary's College, and Washington College. College Days ended in 1985.
The RWSC brought many women involved in home demonstration work together. While county federations had previously existed, women attending the short course realized that home demonstration work and the RWSC could reach more women if they had a statewide homemaker's council. Furthermore, a state organization would open up opportunities with related national and international organizations. In 1936 women from the Rural Women's Short Course attended a conference for the Associated Country Women of the World and discovered that many other states had organized homemakers councils which were represented at the conference. Afterwards, these women spoke with President Harry Clifton Byrd at the University of Maryland, College Park to establish such an organization. The Maryland State Council of Homemakers Clubs was officially established on Febraury 23, 1938. Shortly after, the council was affiliated with the national Home Demonstration Council as well as the Country Women's Council of the United States. The MEHC and the RWSC both continued to support the education of women and families in Maryland.
In 1964 the National Home Demonstration Council changed their name to the National Extension Homemakers Council. The Maryland council followed suit and change their name to the National Extension Homemakers Council (MEHC). In 1992, the National Extension Homemakers Council changed their name to the National Association for Family and Community Education (NAFCE) to support the changing purpose of the organization. Most states followed suit and in April, 1992 the MEHC voted to change their name to the Maryland Assocation for Family and Community Education (MDAFCE). The MDAFCE continues to function today as a statewide organization in Maryland.