Kellogg, E. E. (Ella Ervilla)

Titles by this author
Science in the kitchen : a scientific treatise on food substances and their dietetic properties, together with a practical explanation of the princ...

Ella Eaton Kellogg, nurse, author, dietitian, was born in Alfred, in western New York, the daughter of Hannah Sophia Coon and Joseph Clarke Eaton. She received her early education at local schools, and earned her Bachelors of Arts degree from Alfred University in 1872, the youngest graduate of the school. (Later, in 1885, Alfred awarded her a Master's degree as well.) After graduating, she taught for several years at a school in Harmony, New Jersey. In 1876, on a summer visit to an aunt in Battle Creek, Michigan, her sister (who made the trip with her) was stricken with typhoid fever and taken to the near-by Battle Creek Sanitarium, a reform medical institution established by Seventh-day Adventists. It was there, while caring for her sister, that Ella Eaton met Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (1852 - 1943), the new superintendent of the sanitarium. Impressed with the diligent care she gave to her sister, Dr. Kellogg, who was coping with a typhoid outbreak without any trained nurses on staff, invited Eaton to enroll as a charter member of his new School of Hygiene. She agreed, and the following fall, after a visit back home, she began her work with the sanitarium. She attended classes and volunteered as a nurse. She also assisted with the Adventist monthly, Health Reformer (subsequently named Good Health.) Dr. Kellogg served as editor, but Eaton would become essential to the magazine, editing and contributing hundreds of articles over the course of her life. On February 22, 1879, she was married to Dr. Kellogg, and the two became partners in their own health, diet and medical reform institute.

Dr. Kellogg, who had little early education, had been encouraged by Adventist leaders Ellen and James White, to receive a professional, medical education to legitimize the group's ideas on health and natural remedies - ideas Dr. Kellogg found convincing as well. He attended the University of Michigan Medical School, and transferred to Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City, a leading medical school, and received an M.D. in 1875. He had already published his first two books on dietary reform a year earlier - a hygienic cookbook and an appeal for vegetarianism, Proper Diet for Man (1874) - and began formulating a health regimen he later termed "biologic living." It called for fresh air, exercise, sunshine, eight to ten glasses of water daily and a diet of vegetarianism, a limited use of eggs, dairy products and refined sugar, and abstinence from alcohol, coffee, tea, tobacco and condiments. Kellogg's diet eliminated so many of the commonly pleasurable foods that it left in his words, "a rather uninviting residue," and his patients found it largely unpalatable.

In 1883, Ella Kellogg stepped in to create a more appetizing and satisfying menu. After taking a tour of Eastern cooking schools and learning cookery from leading teachers, she equipped an experimental kitchen at the sanitarium, and began researching the best way to prepare wholesome, easily digestible food. She published her own cookbook on the subject, Science in the Kitchen. A Scientific Treatise on Food Substances and their Dietetic Properties, Together with a Practical Explanation of the Principles of Healthful Cookery, and a Large Number of Original, Palatable, and Wholesome Recipes, in 1893. As the title suggests, the book introduced the growing body of research on nutrition and digestion, and set forth methods of preparing nutritious food that was "inviting to the eye and palate." It also contains an entertaining variety of sayings and illustrations regarding food and culture. Relying on her years of experience at the sanitarium, where Kellogg was responsible for preparing bills of fare for patients and helpers - generating six separate menus every day, for hundreds of people - Kellogg spent at least five years writing her cookbook. True to "biologic living," she condemns condiments as irritants not worth the fleeting pleasure they may provide to the palate, she lays out a reasoned argument against meat in an age before federal meat standards, and in her chapter on cereals, she recommends "granola," a cooked preparation of wheat and oats first manufactured by the Sanitarium Food Company around 1877. A slow-baked biscuit which was then ground coarsely and served as an easily digestible food, "granola" was named after an earlier reformer's product called "Granula." (It was later imitated by Charles W. Post, who created "Grape-Nuts.") When patients complained of the tough texture, the Kelloggs, assisted by brother Will Keith (W.K.) Kellogg, invented a process in 1894 that turned mushy cooked grain into crispy flakes, creating the first wheat flakes, and later corn flakes.

W.K. Kellogg was manager of the Sanitarium Food Company, through which patients, visitors, and others could buy these specialized health foods via mail. In 1905, recognizing the commercial possibilities of their process, he bought the rights to the manufacture of corn flakes from his brother, added sugar to make the flakes tastier, and began the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company; it would later become the Kellogg Cereal Company, one of the nation's most profitable businesses, after W.K. won a bitter lawsuit against his brother for use of the family name. Although Dr. and Ella Kellogg developed other innovative foods at their experimental kitchen, such as imitation meats made from wheat gluten and nuts and a cereal-based coffee substitute (also imitated by Post, who with his knack for names, called it "Postum"), their object was diet reform, not a processed food empire. Recalling Kellogg's dedicated labor at the experimental kitchen, Dr. Kellogg would later write: "Without the help derived from this fertile incubator of ideas, the great food industries of Battle Creek would never have existed. They are all direct or indirect outgrowths of Mrs. Kellogg's experimental kitchen, established in the fall of 1883."

As an outgrowth of the experimental kitchen, Mrs. Kellogg began a cooking school, which in time grew into the Battle Creek Sanitarium School of Home Economics where Kellogg taught classes on dietetics to the nurses. The school eventually became part of Battle Creek College. Kellogg founded the Haskell Home for Orphan Children, and served as managing chairman for many years. She led training for foster mothers as well. Interested in progressive education, she established a kindergarten and home school based on the ideals of Margaret Fuller, Rousseau, and others, and she wrote numerous articles on child-rearing and education for Good Health. The Kelloggs had no children of their own, but were foster parents for over forty children. Kellogg was an active member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Young Women's Christian Association and the American Home Economics Association, and a charter member of the American Dietetic Association. She was the author of several works besides her cookbook, including Studies in Character Building (1905), The Good Health Birthday Book: A Health Thought for Each Day (1907) and Every-day Dishes and Every-day Work (1900).

During her final twenty years, Kellogg suffered from ill health, and lost her hearing possibly due to a childhood bout of scarlet fever. Experts from America and Europe could not restore her hearing, but she learned to read lips and to modulate her voice so successfully that some visitors could not perceive she was deaf. She spent free hours cultivating her garden, and especially enjoyed transplanting wild flowers from the forest. During her final illness, her husband recalled, birds and squirrels "often entered and played about the sick-room." Her last food, a few moments before death, was some strawberries from her own garden. She died on June 14, 1920.


  • Ferrell, Robert H., "Kellogg, W.K.," American National Biography. Vol. 12. Eds. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Kellogg, Ella Eaton, Science in the Kitchen. A Scientific Treatise on Food Substances and their Dietetic Properties, Together with a Practical Explanation of the Principles of Healthful Cookery, and a Large Number of Original, Palatable, and Wholesome Recipes. Chicago: Modern Medicine Publishing Co., 1893.
  • Kellogg, John Harvey, In Memoriam, Ella Eaton Kellogg. Battle Creek? 1920? (sections probably appeared in Good Health, July 1920.)
  • Schwarz, Richard W., John Harvey Kellogg, M.D. Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Assoc., 1970.
  • ----------, "Kellogg, John Harvey," American National Biography. Vol. 12. Eds. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Smallzried, Kathleen Ann, The Everlasting Pleasure. Influences on America's Kitchens, Cooks and Cookery, from 1565 to the year 2000. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1956.
  • Website: [BROKEN LINK] consulted on June 10, 2003.

Written by Anne-Marie Rachman