Skip to main content
Select Source:

Fannie Merritt Farmer

Fannie Merritt Farmer

Fannie Merritt Farmer (1857-1915) was an American authority in the art of cookery and the author of six books about food preparation.

Fannie Farmer was born in Boston, Mass., on March 23, 1857. Her parents had hopes of sending her to college. But after high school graduation she suffered a paralytic stroke, and her doctor discouraged all thoughts of further schooling.

While at home as an invalid, Fannie Farmer became interested in cooking. When her physical condition had markedly improved, her parents advised her to seek schooling which would develop and refine her knowledge and abilities in cookery. She liked the idea and enrolled in the Boston Cooking School, where her performance was outstanding. Because of the excellence of her work, upon graduation in 1889 she was invited to serve as assistant director of the school under Carrie M. Dearborn. Farmer's inquiring mind led her into studies, including a summer course at the Harvard Medical School.

After Dearborn's death in 1891, Farmer was appointed director of the school. While there she published her monumental work, Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1896), of which 21 editions were printed before her death. It has remained a standard work. She served as director of the school for 11 years. After her resignation in 1902, she established her own school and named it Miss Farmer's School of Cookery. It was decidedly innovative, emphasizing the practice of cooking instead of theory. Its program was designed to educate housewives rather than to prepare teachers. The school also developed cookery for the sick and the invalid. Farmer became an undisputed authority in her field, and she was invited to deliver lectures to nurses, women's clubs, and even the Harvard Medical School.

One of Farmer's major contributions was teaching cooks to follow recipes carefully. She pioneered the use of standard level measurement in cooking. Farmer, her school, and her cook-books were extremely popular. She received favorable newspaper coverage in many American cities, and her influence was widespread. The well-attended weekly lectures at the school were tributes to the value of the work she and her assistants were doing. She also wrote a popular cookery column, which ran for nearly 10 years in the Woman's Home Companion, a national magazine.

Farmer was a woman of unusual motivation, intelligence, and courage. Though she suffered another paralytic stroke, she continued lecturing. In fact, 10 days before her death in 1915, she delivered a lecture from a wheelchair.

Further Reading

For general background on cooking and a brief discussion of Fanny Farmer see Kathleen Ann Smallzried, The Everlasting Pleasure: Influences on America's Kitchens, Cooks, and Cookery from 1565 to the Year 2000 (1956). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fannie Merritt Farmer." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fannie Merritt Farmer." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fannie-merritt-farmer

"Fannie Merritt Farmer." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fannie-merritt-farmer

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Farmer, Fannie Merritt

Fannie Merritt Farmer, 1857–1915, American cookbook author and teacher and writer on cookery, b. Boston. A paralytic stroke prevented her from attending college, and she turned to cooking, at home and at the Boston Cooking School, from which she graduated in 1889. She was director of the school from 1891 until 1902, when she opened Miss Farmer's School of Cookery, established to train housewives and nurses, rather than teachers, in cookery. One of her contributions was accurate measurement in recipes. For 10 years she contributed a popular page on cookery for the Woman's Home Companion. She edited The Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1896), one of the best-known and most popular of American cookbooks.

See W. L. Perkins, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (11th rev. ed. 1965).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Farmer, Fannie Merritt." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Farmer, Fannie Merritt." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/farmer-fannie-merritt

"Farmer, Fannie Merritt." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/farmer-fannie-merritt

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Farmer, Fannie Merritt

FARMER, Fannie Merritt

Born 23 March 1857, Boston, Massachusetts; died 15 January 1915, Boston, Massachusetts

Daughter of John F. and Mary Watson Farmer

An attack of paralysis, which maimed her for life, prevented the seventeen-year-old Fannie Farmer from attending college. For a time, she worked in the family kitchen, where her interest in cooking found an outlet in the preparation of meals for boarders in the home. Her health improved, and, at twenty-eight, she enrolled in the Boston Cooking School. After her graduation in 1889, she was appointed assistant to the principal, Carrie M. Dearborn. Upon the latter's death in 1891, Farmer became director of the Boston Cooking School.

In 1902 she established her own school, Miss Farmer's School of Cookery. The school's curriculum emphasized the practice rather than the theory of cooking, and it specialized in cooking for the sick and convalescent. In addition to her work at the school, Farmer wrote a popular cookery column for the Woman's Home Companion and lectured to such diverse groups as nurses, women's clubs, and the Harvard Medical School. In 1908 Farmer suffered a stroke that completely paralyzed her legs, but she continued to fulfill her professional commitments up to the time of her death. Just 10 days before she died, Farmer delivered her final lecture.

One of Farmer's chief contributions to the art of cooking was the standardization of measurements. In an age when haphazard measurements prevailed and cookbooks listed the vaguest of rules—a "pinch," a "lump the size of an egg" or "walnut" were common terms—Farmer insisted upon exact proportions. In her books, quantities are accurately stated. While women were still considered emotional and unscientific, Farmer transformed cookery from mere guesswork into a science.

The style of Farmer's writing is lucid, concrete, and clear. She assumes nothing and takes pains to educate the reader regarding elementary cooking terminology and measurements. In Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent (1904), her recipes for invalids are accompanied by advice and recommendations regarding their care. Although Farmer considered her life's work to be the development of cooking and diets for the sick, including the diabetic, she is best known today for her immensely popular first work, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1896). This work ran into 21 editions before her death, and continues to be a standard work today. Although H. L. Mencken, in 1930, criticized the work for its "provinciality" and Yankee practicality and simplicity, most readers would agree with K. Smallzried's assessment in The Everlasting Pleasure: "It is doubtful whether any home or any food company has escaped the influence of Fannie Merritt Farmer, indirect if not direct."

Other Works:

Chafing Dish Possibilities (1898). What to Have for Dinner (1905). Catering for Special Occasions, with Menus and Recipes (1911). A New Book of Cookery (1912).

Bibliography:

Hopkinson, D., Fannie in the Kitchen (1999). Smallzried, K. A., The Everlasting Pleasure (1956). Vare, E. A., Women Inventors & Their Discoveries (1993).

Reference works:

DAB. NAW. NCAB 22.

Other references:

American Mercury (July 1944). Time (29 May 1978).

—SUSAN E. SIEFERT

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Farmer, Fannie Merritt." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Farmer, Fannie Merritt." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/farmer-fannie-merritt

"Farmer, Fannie Merritt." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. . Retrieved August 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/farmer-fannie-merritt

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.