Helen Gagen Collection

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

Helen Gagen (May 2, 1908-March 23, 1998) graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in Home Economics in the late 1920s and served a dietetic internship in New York City before taking a summer job at the Muskoka Inn. Dissatisfied with the available jobs, she signed up for a teaching course at the Ontario College of Education, but halfway through the year, she answered an advertisement asking rather vaguely for “someone interested in food and recipes.” This part-time job would be monumental to the shaping of Helen's future career. She 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 Toronto radio station CFRB; and staffing and supervision of food booths for the Canadian National Exhibition and smaller fall fairs. Gagen and Bayley were responsible for all the Home Economics activities of Maple Leaf Milling. They conducted 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).

Over the course of her career she served as a home economist, teacher of Family Studies, public relations and consumer advisor, and writer of advertising. She became food editor for the Toronto Telegram in 1963 and worked there until it closed in 1971. In April 1972, 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.



Types of Materials

  • Artifacts
  • Audiovisual Material
  • Photographs
  • Published Material
  • Unpublished Material and Manuscripts


5.76 metres of textual material

How to Access This Resource

XM1 MS A123

Appointments are required to view this material and can be made through Archival & Special Collections.

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