In 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, announcing to the world that an epidemic of boredom and joylessness was sweeping the nation’s housewives. That same year, a trio of housewives in Van Nuys, Calif., developed a remedy: a center for adult education called Everywoman’s Village, which, LIFE explained, “offers familiar cures for advanced cases of housewife boredom.”
The founders of Everywoman’s Village—Chris Edwards, Diane Rosner and Lynn Selwyn—did not create the school as a deliberate response to the problem Friedan described. According to LIFE, they “have never burst into tears while alone with their vacuum cleaners.” But they recognized a need for women like them to have a space to continue learning. After all, half of the 800 women who quickly enrolled had bachelor’s degrees, and some had completed graduate studies.
The Village offered classes in papier-mâché and sculpture, ballet and yoga. For $24, a mother or housewife could enroll in a 9-week course to fill what little time she had left after completing her duties at home. For empty-nesters in particular, the school could help her find purpose in her new-found free time, as LIFE explained:
Many housewives are no more able to make a commitment to a “life plan” than a 5-year-old child. When they married they may have felt that having a family was their life plan. Not until the children were grown did they suddenly become aware that theirs was only a 15- or -20-year plan.
LIFE described the Village as “a halfway house between the kitchen and the future.” Women who spent their days at home, the founders explained, could feel cut off from the world outside. But here, they had an opportunity to reconnect. The language the magazine used to describe the school’s offerings subtly acknowledged Friedan’s argument: “They seem to be perfectly ordinary suburban women except for one thing—they looked absorbed and contented.”
Even as the number of women in the workplace increased, Everywoman’s Village found a steady flow of customers. And they were not only housewives—or, to use a term preferred by some today, primary caretakers. In response to popular demand, the Village eventually opened its doors to men. When the Los Angeles Times profiled the school in 1994, it had updated its course offerings to include classes on “how to dance sensually for your man” and how to use the computer program WordPerfect. Five years later, however, it was forced to shut its doors in the face of financial difficulties.
But for the stay-at-home wives and mothers who flocked to the Van Nuys campus in 1963, the Village was more than a place to pick up new skills. It was an oasis of community. “I haven’t been to my gynecologist since I enrolled," said one student. “Now I have better things to do than brood about my ovaries.”
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.