Sarah Tyson Rorer and the Development of Home Economics

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Sarah Tyson Rorer and the Development of Home Economics

2022-07-15 16:52


In this installment of the Ice Cream American Dream, HSP is excited to talk about the work and legacy of Sarah Tyson Rorer. Born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1849, Rorer would become an incredibly influential figure to women all over the country and a founder of home economics. 

In the late 19th century, while the country was still reeling after the end of the Civil War, many households experienced an economic shift. Things were changing, industrialization was occurring, and family dynamics were evolving. Women were finding themselves doing chores and completing tasks that were unknown to them prior to the war, and with these new duties came a learning curve. Because of this, many of the women who had previously been writing recipes and cookbooks began including other housekeeping tips and tricks in their published work. The term “domestic scientists” was coined for these women who, in doing this, invented the field of “home economics.”

Sarah Tyson Rorer was one of such women during this time period. Rorer was a member of the New Century Guild in Philadelphia — now the location of the Guild House Hotel — and later went on to become director of Philadelphia Cooking School. As a well respected dietician and cook, Rorer published a dozen novels, many of which included the Philadelphia ice cream method as a valuable dessert recipe (and many of which can be found in HSP’s collection). Rorer also went on to become the domestic editor of the “Ladies Home Journal,” and a contributing editor to “Good Housekeeping” magazine, doing her part in establishing home economics as a credible field. 

Though Rorer was clearly a stand out choice as our influential figure in home economics in Philadelphia, there were many other women who participated in the “by women, for women,” written domestic science movement. Mary J. Lincoln, who we mentioned last week, was one such influence in Boston. Also a famous cook and cooking instructor, Lincoln published many recipe books at the time that cited Philadelphia ice cream as the best.

After the field took off, it expanded to include men. James Parkinson — the son of Eleanor Parkinson,the subject of the first #IceCreamAmericanDream post — an accomplished chef himself, was the creator of the country's first culinary journal, “Confectioner’s Journal.”


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