Iconic Cookbook For Middle-Class First Published in 1896

Young brides were given a copy of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook as a must-have staple to begin married life. Middle class housewives and “ladies of the house” used it religiously. Later, it became the basis of those science of home economics classes taught in public high schools.

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, one of the best-selling cookbooks in American history, began life in 1896 as the Boston Cooking-School Cookbook. Its author, Boston-born, Medford-raised Fannie Farmer, was writing for the growing number of American women “who aspired to the new ideal of middle-class family life: home ownership, with a wage-earning male head of household and a full-time mother and housewife to oversee the home and family.” The book was a tool for learning what most women tried to learn from other women in their families – mother, aunt, grandmother. In the Preface to the 1919 edition – the last one completely written by Miss Farmer herself – she writes:

With the progress of knowledge the needs of the human body have not been forgotten. During the last decade much time has been given by scientists to the study of foods and their dietetic value, and it is a subject which rightfully should demand much consideration from all. I certainly feel that the time is not far distant when a knowledge of the principles of diet will be an essential part of one’s education. Then mankind will eat to live, will be able to do better mental and physical work, and disease will be less frequent.


  At the earnest solicitation of educators, pupils, and friends, I have been urged to prepare this book, and I trust it may be a help to many who need its aid. It is my wish that it may not only be looked upon as a compilation of tried and tested recipes, but that it may awaken an interest through its condensed scientific knowledge which will lead to deeper thought and broader study of what to eat.

Read the full entry from MassMoments.org here to learn more about Fannie Farmer.