Helen Gagen Collection


This collection contains photographs, recipes, articles, clippings, correspondence, magazines, and manuscripts from Helen Gagen during her culinary career. 

After graduation from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in Home Economics and a dietetic internship in New York City, Helen worked that summer at Muskoka Inn, and considered permanent employment. She was dissatisfied with the available jobs, so signed up for a teaching course at the Ontario College of Education. Halfway through the year, she answered an advertisement asking rather vaguely for “someone interested in food and recipes.” Helen was given a part-time job with Katherine Caldwell Bayley who was in the process of expanding her food writing career. The basic ongoing projects included the monthly food pages for the Canadian Home Journal, later absorbed by Chatelaine, a 12 to 14 page monthly supplement mailed to some 4,000 Journal readers; acting as the food department for the Toronto Mail and Empire (subsequently the Globe and Mail) which included editorial half-pages five days a week, and a full page Friday; also a daily half-hour “Cooking School of the Air” over radio station CFRB; and staffing and supervision of food booths for the Canadian National Exhibition and smaller fall fairs. As Anna Lee Scott, the corporate food personality for Maple Leaf Milling said, Helen and Bayley were responsible for all Home Economics activities of the company. Included were recipe development, product testing, production of cookbooks and cooking lesson series, and copy for Maple Leaf Mills consumer products’ packages. (Ontario Home Economics In Business, 2015)

Helen Gagen's career included home economist, teacher of Family Studies, public relations and consumer advisor, working for "Canadian Home Journal", General Foods and Clarke Irwin Publishers. She became food editor for the "Toronto Telegram" in 1963 and worked there until it closed in 1971. In April 1972, H. Gagen was appointed consumer adviser for Miracle Food Mart supermarkets in Ontario. She began the "Shopping Basket" column for the "Globe & Mail" in 1976 and continued writing it until 1987. For a few years after that she wrote anonymous restaurant reviews for "Toronto Life" magazine. Helen Gagen was made the first member of the Ontario Home Economists in Business Hall of Fame.


5.76 metres of textual material.

Type(s) Of Materials: 
Audiovisual Material
Published Material
Unpublished Material and Manuscripts
How To Access: 

XM1 MS A123

This collection is available for viewing on-site in Archival & Special Collections during our regular business hours.