Mabel Sanderson

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Dr. Sanderson grew up in Yellow Grass Saskatchewan and North Bay Ontario. Her interview includes descriptions of campus life in the early 1930’s. After graduation from the Home Economics Diploma programme in 1931, Dr. Sanderson went on to complete her bachelors degree at the University of Toronto and did a dietetic internship. She returned to Guelph to teach food courses in the Diploma.

During WW II while Macdonald Institute was used for Air Force training, she taught at Brescia College in London, Ontario. During summers she completed a Masters degree at Columbia. In the 1950’s she gained her PhD at Purdue. Upon her return to Guelph she taught in the degree programme, served as head of the foods area and was present for Macdonald Institute becoming part of the University of Guelph.

Graduation Year




Interview Date


F. Partridge

Call Number

RE1 UOG A1340050


Tape 1 of 1  Side B




Macdonald Institute, 1931

Interviewed by Florence Partridge

October 10, 1991


P          We were just talking about Brescia. That is a Roman Catholic College affiliated with the University of (Western) Ontario.  Is that right?


S          Yes.  That’s right.  Hmhm.  The Ursuline Nuns…


P          … yes, Ursuline Nuns. Hmhm.  Did you find teaching there very different from teaching at Macdonald Institute?


S          Well, the classes were smaller…and otherwise, it was very similar.


P          Then, you continued to teach there until the end of World War II, I guess,  but you didn’t come back immediately to Macdonald Institute, did you?  Is that when you went on to do further graduate work?


S          I’m trying to recall – actually, I don’t think I went – I - I don’t think I went to graduate school – then, because I took my Masters in the summers.  And I don’t think I went to Purdue for my doctorate until the fall of – I guess it was the fall of ’58.  You know, that would be a - quite a bit after that.


P          Yes.  Uh, how did you choose Purdue for graduate work?


S          Well, I had been at some Home Economics – I had gone to some type of Home Economics meeting, and Dr Vale – had been there, and had spoken at one or two, and I liked her.  And she was in charge at Purdue.  So, I decided to go there.


P          So, your doctorate was in Foods and Nutrition, was it – the same area?  Hmhm.  Then um, when you came – you came back to Mac Institute and – can you remember what year that would be?


S          Well, I think I came back the fall of ’59, right after I– left Purdue.


P          I see.  And when you came back then, Dr. McCready would be the Dean at that time, and plans, I guess…The – the degree course would have been already established then?


S          Yes.


P          Because, I think the first graduates from the degree course were in 1952.


S          Hmhm.  Right.


P          So, it had been a while of course, since you had taught at Mac Institute then, but, did you find teaching the degree course very different from the two year course that you had been teaching?


S          Oh, yes.  The course content was different, and it was divided up and – well, uh,  I- I think the course outline was really quite different, and not quite as much practical work in it.


P          A little more science…


S          Yes. Hmhm.


P          You were Head of the Department of Foods and Nutrition, I think from 1964 to ’69, in that transition period of Federated Colleges, when the University was coming into being.


S          Yes.


P          Can you remember much of the planning for the change to university status?


S          Well, I just remember there were a lot of meetings about this and Dr. MacLachlan had uh, called – called them.


P          Hmhm.


S          And we used to go and see about those and Olive Wallace went over with me, quite often, to see about the – the um,…


P          What – what was Olive teaching at the time?


S          I’m trying to think of the – of uh, what the course was.  I – I can’t recall…


P          Would hers be a more practical course?


S          It was a different type of course.  It was for seniors and it  was really quite different as I remember, but I can’t – I can’t recall the content of the course…


P          Perhaps it was more uh, the institutional application…


S          Yes.


P          Hmm.   Then, once the University was established, I believe there continued to be changes in the aims and ambitions of the College and of the courses.  And can you remember discussions about those changes and how they took place and what they were?


S          No.  I don’t recall very much.  They’re preparing people to go into dietetics and we had, of course, quite a few who wanted to be dieticians, and that was the principal role.


P          Then, the College became – it included more science in its courses.  That’s perhaps “Homemaking” as it had been envisioned in the early years, by Adelaide Hoodless, um,…


S          Guess we didn’t spend as much time on practical food preparation, as they had before.


P          What did you think about these changes?  Do you think that the time had come for changes …


S          Oh, yes.


P          …of that kind?


S          Yes.  Very definitely.


P          So that it was no longer a school to teach people to “Keep House” and for “Homemaking”, it was more a career oriented…


S          Yes.  Right.  Hmhm. 


P          What about any university related activities? – organizations that you belonged to, or anything of that kind?  There would be the Canadian Dietetic Association, perhaps?


S          Well, I belonged to most – the Canadian Dietetic and the Canadian Home Economics Associations, and I used to try to go to some of their meetings, although I can’t say that I remember too much about them right now.  I remember one – going to Kingston, to one set of meetings, but that’s about all I can recall.


P          What is the difference – what were the different qualifications for belonging to the two organizations – the Canadian Dietetic Association and the Home Economics Association?


S          Well, the Dietetic was strictly Foods and Dietetics, whereas the Home Economics had other branches, such as Clothing and Textiles.


P          The Home Economics Association would be more related to the earlier days of Macdonald Institute, then?


S          I would think so.


P          And I think you were at one time, a member of Senate of the University?


S          Yes.


P          Did you have any particular duties with – in regard to that, or was it more a matter of attending meetings and reporting back?


S          More a matter of attending the meetings and you voted and took part in different issues as they came along.


P          The Alumni Association – what has been your association with that?


S          Well, I’ve been active especially for my own year…and I always like to keep track of what the Alumni is doing, and what they’re spending their money on, and that sort of thing.


P          You still then, do still maintain relations with people of your own class, and with other members of the Alumni – I suppose, particularly those who are living in the Guelph area.


S          Yes.  There are not too many left of my own year.  Marion Penhill comes up from St. Thomas, and I don’t see too many others.  But…Rosemary Clarke is the – is – works with the Alumni.  She’s in charge of all that.


P          Uh, Rosemary though, was not uh, in your class.


S          Oh, no.   No.  She’s younger.


P          Is there any area that we have not covered that you would like to comment about?


S          Well, I don’t really think so.  It was always a friendly spot.  People were considerate of each other and (pause).  Nowadays, when I go on campus, I don’t know anybody (chuckle).  So many different departments and the University has grown so much…that uh, it’s very difficult.


P          Difficult to keep in touch with the newer developments.  But, you do feel that the newer developments have been a natural progression and desirable progression from the old days?


S          Hmhm.


P          If you were considering the change in the career environment to-day, when women have many more choices – if you were making a choice to-day, do you think that you still would make the choice that you did, in 19 – 29 - 19…


S          ’31. (Chuckle)


P          Well, you graduated in ’31, so you would’ve…


S          That was just from the two year course, though.


P          Yes.  Yes.


S          Hmhm.


P          Do you think you would make a similar choice to-day?


S          Oh, I think so.  Yes.  Quite – quite satisfied – that part of it.


P          Apart from your teaching career and the fact that your course of Mac Institute really was the beginning of all that, do you think that it has – well, in - in what ways has it affected your life, apart from your teaching career?  Or is that a – too broad a –a statement?


S          Hmhm.  Well, I think so, because you are affected and concerned with the people you meet - and what they are doing, and what they tell you about their lives.  And, then of course, a lot of your friends are – a lot of my friends are married and have families, and some of them are – and many of them now, have grandchildren, so – that uh, makes quite a difference.


P          So you did make lasting friendships and still keep in touch with people?


S          Oh, yes.  Hmhm.


P          Well, um, I think Mabel, that perhaps is about what we can say about Mac Institute, and thank you very much for your time.  We appreciate your taking time to do this for us.


S          You’re very welcome.  Should have done it five years ago, and then I might have remembered more.


P          That’s true of all of us I guess.


S          Yep.  All right.



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