The Health Reformer’s Cook Book

Published in Dansville, New York in 1872, this volume in the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection by the wife of a respected physician is one of the earliest vegetarian cookbooks and provides insight into the health reform movement that swept the country in the 19th century. 

 Once life and culture had stabilized in the 19th century and moved beyond the frontier focus on subsistence and survival, Americans began to explore the idea of improving health and creating more comfortable lifestyles. Health reform in the late 19th century emerged from the idea that a healthy body and practicing moderation in daily living were necessary to a spiritual, meaningful existence. From these ideas, the vegetarian philosophy was codified, and The Health Reformer’s Cook Book embraced trends that still have significance today. 


As stated in the book, it’s “object is to restore the sick to health by means of . . . pure air, pure water, sun-light, sleep, proper clothing, judicious exercise, healthful food, pleasant social influences, &c., excluding all poisonous drugs.” The Health Reformer’s Cook Book is based on the methods and beliefs that Jackson and her husband actually employed at a health facility founded by her husband. Following the health reform ideals of the time, Jackson included recipes to limit excessive eating and following a vegetarian diet focused on simple meals of fruits, vegetables, and grains—all trends that still resonant with health experts today.


This edition of The Health Reformer’s Cook Book was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the Society is a research library documenting the life of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The Society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection includes approximately 1,100 volumes.

About the Author

 Lucretia E. Jackson was an exemplary and busy housewife. During the anti-slavery movement, she and her husband, Dr. James C. Jackson, were active in the underground railway before becoming mutually interested in health reform. Following the war, Jackson was the manager of the culinary and housekeeping departments of a medical facility founded by her husband.

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