University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Photo of women at cooking stations in the faculty of household science.
Courtesy of U of T Archives B2003-0001/115-3

Domestic Doyennes

Household Science students learn the art and science of cooking

At identical cooking stations – equipped with Bunsen burners, pudding bowls and graniteware pie plates – Faculty of Household Science students strive to perfect a recipe in November 1947.

The faculty – which had existed as a household science department since 1902 – focused not only on cooking and home life, but also on the scientific study of food and nutrition. While many graduates became homemakers, others taught in high schools or became dietitians in institutions such as hospitals.

The school was housed in the neoclassical Lillian Massey building, which officially opened in 1913, at Bloor Street and Queen’s Park. Principal Annie Laird and Clara Benson, secretary and head of the food chemistry department, were driving forces behind the faculty – and were U of T’s first female professors.

The Faculty of Household Science, in its early years, was unabashedly of its time, preparing women for a domestic life. Students planned, shopped for, cooked and served a day’s meals. They learned about cleansing agents and studied home nursing.

But the faculty also expanded the traditional woman’s role by teaching students the science behind housework. Undergrads conducted dietary studies, performed lab research in food chemistry and, as part of their degree work, studied everything from biology and economics to history.

In 1962, the school was renamed the Faculty of Food Sciences to reflect its growing role in science and dietetics. The faculty was dissolved in 1975 – and the kitchen lights were turned out three years later, after the last class graduated.

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