MRL Freshel, "The Golden Rule Cook Book" (1908)

Veg*an Thanksgiving, 1908

The idea of a meat-free, vegan or vegetarian, Thanksgiving feast is hardly new, yet menus like the one that appears below – first published more than a century ago – still surprise. Not least because the author, M.R.L. (Emarel) Sharpe engages in a debate between meat-substitutes and plant-based dishes that seems, at first, to be a very twenty-first century issue. As seen in the recipes reproduced below, she insists upon the integrity of plant-based menus, even while she and her second husband, Curtis Freshel, were working to produce animal-free food stuffs and clothing.

Maud Russell Lorraine (“Emarel”) Sharpe Freshel (1867-1949), née Carpenter, was first married to Ernest R. Sharpe. After his death, she married Curtis Freshel in 1917. Her initials, “M.R.L.” led to the nickname “Emarel” that she regularly used. Freshel was a member of the Boston elite and she worked to use her social position to promote her activism on behalf of animal welfare, which she saw as the most effective path to urgent social reform.


An anti-vivisectionist, she served on the board of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society; she was also active in the Animal Rescue League of Boston. According to Carol J. Adams, in “Feminism, the Great War, and Modern Vegetarianism,” Freshel was a member of the Christian Science church but resigned when the church lent its support to the entry of the US into World War I. In Freshel's estimation, the violence of war was not only inseparable from all other kinds of violence (including against animals) but war legitimates the idea that killing can be justified (246). Her veg*an activism took multiple forms: in 1907 she authored the very popular vegetarian cookbook The Golden Rule Cookbook (first published in 1908); she hosted vegetarian dinners and showed films of slaughterhouses at her home, which was known as Providence House. In 1912 Freshel founded the Millennium Guild, the first animal rights organization in the United States, named after the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1-10 of a day when killing would cease and all creatures would live together peaceably. The goal of the organization was to “teach [that] the foremost among the unnecessary evils of the world, and one which underlies most of the other evils, is the mutilation and slaughter of our fellow creatures for food and other selfish ends” (see Shprintzen). Carol Helstosky names the stage actress Minnie Maddern Fiske as the Guild's most notable supporter, though Freshel was closely associated with prominent veg*ans such as George Bernard Shaw and Leo Tolstoy. The Guild promoted the ethical refusal of flesh foods and faux fur as an alternative to fur fabrics; members wore cotton clothes and avoided all animal-based clothing. J. Keri Cronin reports that “The sale of the cruelty-free outerwear that Freshel sewed helped to fund the activities of the Guild. … Freshel told [a] reporter that members of the Millennium guild 'have found splendid substitutes for furs, feather hat trimmings and kid gloves, and know we are better off without eating meat. We practice the convictions of our minds and hearts.'” An annual vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner was hosted by the Guild at the luxury Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. Curtis Freshel founded the Millennium Food Company to produce meat substitutes; its most successful product was Bakon Yeast, made from hickory smoke, which is still available.


From the “Introduction”: M.R.L. (“Emarel”) Sharpe (Freshel), The Golden Rule Cook Book: Six hundred recipes for meatless dishes (1908). 

            It is daily less possible to buy turkeys and chickens minus their heads. The delicate death without the use of the old-time axe (which we degraded men and women have thought a pretty symbol to place on Thanksgiving Day table cards) is brought about by hanging the fowls up by the feet, in what fright can be imagined, an incision is then made in the roof of the mouth, and after bleeding to death, which, as in the case of calves or veal, insures solid white flesh, they are served as food to dainty women who can scarcely bear to kill a fly, and alas! to some members of the societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

            One crate of chickens can encase more suffering than I want endured for me. There is first the terror in capture, then the suffering of being thrust, legs often tied, in the small over-crowded crate, then the journey in the shrieking train, and the thirst-tortured hours in the sun before the final twist of the neck or the blow of the axe, given in many cases just before natural death would render the fowl unfit for sale. And such food, poisoned by fear and suffering, is considered the most delicate, and thought fit to feed to invalids!

            That all chickens do not endure the same suffering before death is no excuse for eating them, for some will have to submit to it while chicken is an article of food. The modern invention of fattening fowl by the machine-stuffing method, to make what are called in England “Surrey fowls,” and in America are given various fancy names, is so revolting that it almost makes one faint to read a true account of it. We are selfishly prone to comfort ourselves when these things are brought to our notice with the thought that the lower creatures do not suffer as we would. The fact is that no two live beings suffer the same in any event, physical or mental, but the lower animal or bird or fish suffers in its fear and death all it is capable of suffering, and we have no right to make any creature do this for our pleasure.” (19-20)



Menus in a cook-book are perhaps not always worth the space devoted to them, but as the beginner in Vegetarianism often finds the arranging of a menu in such a way that it does not depart too far from the accustomed manner of serving food the most difficult part of the task she has set herself, a few menus are here given, more with an idea of showing what dishes are most suitable as Entremets, Pièces de Resistance, and Entrées, than with the thought that they will be followed absolutely, for they can of course be changed in many ways, and very much simplified for ordinary use, and amplified for formal occasions.





PIMOLAS                                                                                                        CELERY

* * *


CRACKERS                                                                                                   RADISHES

* * *


* * *


MASHED POTATOES                                                         ROAST SWEET POTATOES

CRANBERRY SAUCE                                                                           BAKED CELERY

* * *


* * *


* * *

MINCE PIE                                                                                                         PUMPKIN PIE

NUTS AND RAISINS                                                                                                        FRUIT








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---. Neither Man nor Beast: Feminism and the Defense of Animals. New York: Continuum, 1994.

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Cooper, Helen Margaret, Adrienne Munich & Susan Merrill Squier, eds. Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

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Cronin, J. Keri. Art for Animals: Visual Culture and Animal Advocacy, 1870–1914. College Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2018.

---. “We Practice the Convictions of our Minds and Hearts.” Keri Cronin. 10 December 2015.

Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. 1871. London: John Murray, 1901.

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Edison, Thomas A. Cattle driven to slaughter.” James H. (James Henry) White, production; William Heise, camera. United States: Edison Manufacturing Co., 1897. Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Washington, D. C. 20540 USA.

---. “Sheep run, Chicago stockyards.” James H. (James Henry) White, production; William Heise, camera. United States: Edison Manufacturing Co., 1897. Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Washington, D. C. 20540 USA.

Fiske, Minnie Maddern. “What a Deformed Thief this Fashion Is.” The Ladies' Home Journal (September 1921): 21-22, 113.

Fulton, Edwin Giles. Substitutes for Flesh Foods: Vegetarian Cook Book. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Company, 1904.

Hale, Sarah Josepha. The Good Housekeeper, Or the Way to Live Well, and to be Well While We Live. Boston: Weeks, Jordan & Co., 1839. 

---. “Our Holidays,” Godey's Lady Book, Vol. 34, Iss. 1 (January 1847): 52-53.

---. Northwood: A Tale of New England. Boston: Bowles & Dearborn, 1827.

Hines, Alice. “The History of Faux Fur: For more than 100 years, the fine line between finks and minks has been blurred.” Smithsonian Magazine. 22 January 2015.

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Kellogg, John Harvey. The Living Temple. Battle Creek, MI: Good Health Publishing, 1903.

Mansky, Jackie. “We’re Entering a New Age of Meatless Meat Today. But We’ve Been Here Before: At the turn of the 20th century, the first mock meat craze swept the nation.” Smithsonian Magazine 25 April 2019.

Millenium Extract.” The Vegetarian Magazine Vol. 14, no. 3, (November 1910): n. pag.

Pacyga, Dominic. “How Chicago's Slaughterhouse Spectacles Paved The Way For Big Meat.” The Salt. NPR. 3 December 2015.

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Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “DINNER [held by] BATTLE CREEK SANITARIUM [at] “BATTLE CREEK, MI” (OTHER: SANITARIUM).The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1900.

Shurtleff, William & Akiko Aoyagi, comp. History of Vegetarianism and Veganism Worldwide (1430 BCE to 1969) Lafayette, CA: Soyinfo, 2022.

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Tryon, Thomas. Healths Grand Preservative : or The womens best doctor A treatise, shewing the nature and operation of brandy, rumm, rack, and other distilled spirits, and the ill consequences of mens, but especially of womens drinking such pernicious liquors and smoaking tobacco. As likewise, of the immoderate eating of flesh without a due observation of time, or nature of the creature which hath proved very destructive to the health of many. Together, with a rational discourse of the excellency of herbs, highly approved of by our ancestors in former times. And the reasons why men now so much desire the flesh more than other food. A work highly fit to be persued and observed by all that love their health, and particularly necessary to the female sex, on whose good or ill constitution the health and strength, or sickness and weakness of all [cropped]sterity does in a more especial manner depend. London: printed for the author, and are to be sold by Lang[ley] Curtis near Fleet-Bridge, 1682.

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Mrs. Maud Sharpe Freshel in The Boston Post, 1919. File URL: Attribution: Anonymous Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Licensing: This work is in the public domain.

Mrs. Curtis Freshel LCCN2014714893. File URL: Attribution: Bain News Service, publisher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Permissions: No known restrictions on publication. For more information, see George Grantham Bain Collection - Rights and Restrictions Information Bain News Service, publisher - Library of Congress Catalog:

Mrs. Fiske, “Love finds the way” / Zaida Ben Yusuf. File URL: Attribution: this image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsca.10101 Licensing: This work is in the public domain.

"On the eve of the American Convention, Henry Bailey Stevens (right), author of 'The Recovery of Culture,' received from Curtis Freshel, of the Millenium Guild, New York, the new Award of $1,000 for the best humanitarian work of the year. The presentation took place at Caroline's, the Milwaukee vegetarian restaurant founded by Mr. Henry Nunn. (photo: 'Milwaukee Sentinel')." Screenshot, Deborah Madsen. 21 November 2022. "First American Vegetarian Convention: Wisconsin, USA, August 21-27, 1949." International Vegetarian Union.

“Protose advert 1900.” File URL: Attribution: Sanitas Nut Food Company, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Protose featured on the menu at the St Louis Vegetarian Café, 28 July (1904?). Scrapbook of 1850s and 1860s hotel and restaurant menus. Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management Hospitality Industry Archives. University of Houston Digital Collections. Public Domain.

Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “DINNER [held by] BATTLE CREEK SANITARIUM [at] “BATTLE CREEK, MI” (OTHER: SANITARIUM).” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1900.

Karen Arnold, “Thanksgiving Day Vintage Card.” License: CC0 Public Domain.


Last updated on March 31st, 2023

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How to cite this page:

Madsen, Deborah. 2022. "Veg*an Thanksgiving, 1908." Vegan Literary Studies:  An American Textual History., 1776-1900  <Date accessed.> <>.