Fannie Farmer was born on March 23, 1857, near Boston. Although she lived during a time when most women weren’t formally schooled, Farmer’s parents believed in education. They enrolled her in high school, but during her teens, Farmer suffered a paralytic stroke that kept her homebound for years. Although she was ultimately able to walk again, the stroke left her with a permanent limp.
Farmer did not complete high school, but when she reached her early 30s, she attended the Boston Cooking School, one that took a scientific approach to cooking and household management as it trained women to become cooking instructors. After Farmer graduated from the school in 1889, she took a job there as an assistant to the director. Two years later, she became the school principal.