Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Emily Winifred Savage (1888–1977)

by Mary McPherson

This article was published:

Emily Winifred Savage (1888-1977), home economics teacher, was born on 2 August 1888 at Enfield, Sydney, fourth of five children of English-born parents Harry Nell, engineer, and his wife Emily, née Warcup. Winnie's interest in cookery began early and her mother gave her basic cooking lessons. With four other young women, she won a bursary in 1905 to study cookery under Hannah Rankin at Fort Street Training School. In 1907, while living at Drummoyne, she became assistant-teacher of cookery at Sydney Girls' High School. She went on to teach cookery in public schools at Petersham (1907-08), Erskineville (1908-09), Albury (1910-12), Hornsby (1912-13 and 1919-24), Broken Hill (1914) and Redfern (1915).

In 1925 Miss Nell visited London as an exchange teacher with the London County Council. Back home, she was appointed (June) supervisor of cookery in the Department of Education. She published A Handbook of Home Management in 1926; it was used as a text in schools for the next two decades and the tenth edition appeared in 1959. As supervisor, she made a significant contribution during a time when cookery was increasingly taught in schools.

A gracious woman with a pleasant manner and soft grey eyes, Winifred Nell resigned from the department in August 1933. On 11 September that year at the Independent Church, Kew, Melbourne, she married with Congregational forms Henry Savage, a 75-year-old merchant and a widower. After he died in 1934, Mrs Savage moved from Adelaide to Sydney. She lived at Neutral Bay and resumed her career, with the Sydney County Council. From 1936 to 1953 she was employed as lecturer in home economics. By 1945, as supervisor of the home management section, she trained the council's demonstrators.

Mrs Savage became well known to countrywomen from her regular contributions (1945-57) to the monthly, Countrywoman in New South Wales. Her articles and recipes ranged from 'Yeast Cooking' and 'Prune and Apricot Upside Down Pudding' to vegetable and meat dishes. For some three and a half years she also broadcast daily in the 'Banish Drudgery' session on radio-station 2GB. Interviewed in 1953 for the Sunday Herald, she said that, in her opinion, the most important development in the kitchen in the preceding four decades had been the general use of refrigeration. Having taught thousands of women to cook, she advocated simplifying the process of food preparation.

On a visit to Britain and the United States of America in 1955, Mrs Savage was impressed by packaged foods. She took part (1957-59) in the Australian Broadcasting Commission's 'Cookery Book' segment of the 'Women's Session', and contributed recipes to the A.B.C. Weekly and cookery pages to the Australian Country Magazine (1956-62). In 1961 she published A Treasury of Good Recipes, with a practical, washable cover. She gave her readers the benefit of her knowledge of cookery—accumulated over more than half a century—and urged them to be 'adventurous' in their cooking and to 'impart character and individuality to a meal by doing so'. Winifred Savage died on 16 February 1977 at Mosman and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. I. Peacock, A History of Home Economics in New South Wales (Syd, 1982)
  • Sunday Herald, 26 July 1953
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 20 Jan 1955
  • Education Department (New South Wales), cookery files, 20/12612-33 (State Records New South Wales)
  • New South Wales teachers' records (Education Department, Sydney).

Citation details

Mary McPherson, 'Savage, Emily Winifred (1888–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Nell, Emily Winifred

2 August, 1888
Enfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


16 February, 1977 (aged 88)
Mosman, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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