Fannie Farmer - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Fannie Farmer

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook has been in print since 1896 and is currently in its thirteenth edition. The namesake of the cookbook, Fannie Farmer (1857-1915), was a feisty redhead who had a stroke in her teens that paralyzed her for years, yet she became the woman who revolutionized cooking throughout the United States. At age thirty-one, when she had recovered enough to walk with a limp, Farmer attended the Boston Cooking School, which focused on science-based learning. She excelled there and was hired as principal of the school just two years after her graduation. While principal, she significantly revised the Boston Cooking School Cookbook to standardize exact measurements. Prior to her updates, recipe measurements were approximations like “amount of butter the size of an egg,” and the likelihood of recipe success was disclaimed with “results may vary.”

When she approached a publishing house in 1896 to publish the revised book, they made her front the money for a limited run of three thousand books. This, however, allowed her to keep the copyright. The cookbook (now known as The Fannie Farmer Cookbook) became a huge success, selling over four million copies in her lifetime and remaining in print to this day, well over a hundred years after the first edition. At the age of forty-five, Farmer opened Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery to train housewives and nurses. Through the school, she developed techniques and equipment for serving the sick and disabled. She lectured on her innovations at hospitals, women’s clubs, and even Harvard Medical School. A lifelong hero to the disabled population, Farmer had another paralytic stroke later in life, yet continued to give lectures from her wheelchair—even up to ten days before her death. That is true devotion to a mission.

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