The Betty Lamp became the symbol of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (established in 1909 as the American Home Economics Association) in 1926. Mildred Chamberlain of Chicago submitted the design, stating, "The lamp in colonial days had provided light for all household industries."
The Betty Lamp evolved from simple clay dish lamps that were used as long ago as 6,000 B.C. As time passed, these dish-like lamps were made of iron, copper and bronze. They burned fish oil or scraps of fat and had wicks of twisted cloth. The lamps were smoky, smelly, and the wicks often drew up oil quicker than it burned, allowing the surplus to spill over the sides of the lamp onto the objects beneath.
These early lamps were improved by creating a wickholder in the base which channeled the drippings from the wick back into the bowl of the lamp where it could eventually be consumed. Adding a cover confined heat, decreased smoke, and made the oil burn more efficiently. The curved handle often had attached to it a short chain with a hook on one end for hanging the lamp and a pick on the other for rescuing the wick from the oil. This better lamp, named the Betty, from the German word, "besser" or "bete," meaning "to make better," produced comparatively good light for its time and was used widely by early American colonists.
To family and consumer sciences professionals, the Betty Lamp represents joy, knowledge, fellowship, cooperation, service, achievement, and the light of the home and the mind.