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Sunderlin, Gertrude, 1894-1990



  • Existence: August 27, 1894 - June 20, 1990

Biographical Information

Gertrude Sunderlin was born in 1894 in Iowa, where she lived for much of her early life and after her retirement from Purdue. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Home Economics (with honors) from Iowa State University in 1919; this degree took some time to complete because she took alternate years off to teach. After teaching for several years, she earned her Master's degree in Household Bacteriology from Iowa State in 1926 and gained the attention of the Ball Jar Company who offered support for her PhD work. Her PhD in Bacteriology and Foods and Nutrition was completed in 1928 with her dissertation titled: Studies in Home Canning: I, Some Factors Affecting the Keeping Qualities of Vegetables and Meats Canned by the Hot Water Bath Method. II, Indices of Spoilage in Home-Canned Foods. Sunderlin holds the distinction of being the first woman to receive a PhD from Iowa State University.

Before beginning her tenure at Purdue, Sunderlin was sponsored by the Purnell Research Foundation for post-doc work at Louisiana State University from 1928-1931. She began at Purdue in 1931 in the College of Home Economics Experimental Foods Department, where she remained until her retirement in 1954. While at Purdue, she oversaw the development of the Master Mix, a basic starting mix for baked goods that was made in the home and could be used for cakes, cookies, muffins, etc. This mix was a precursor for several more specific "master" mixes as well as modern commercially available baking mixes. Also developed under her mentorship were formulas for freezing jams and dough, and many other time-saving techniques or methods in the kitchen. One student, Ruth Siems, is credited with the invention of Stove Top stuffing. Her work as well as the work she supervised at Purdue seems to have been instrumental in the development of what we today call convenience foods, making Sunderlin instrumental in the development of modern food culture. Dr. Sunderlin died in Iowa in 1990 at the age of 96.


MSF 493, Gertrude Sunderlin papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue Unversity Libraries.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Master Mix recipes booklet

 Unprocessed — Box: Communal Accessions 9
Identifier: 20180906

Gertrude Sunderlin papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 493
Scope and Contents The Gertrude Sunderlin papers (1939-1954; 2.2 cubic feet) document the life and career of Gertrude Sunderlin, an early foods and nutrition professor at Purdue University.  Much of the collection is comprised of theses written by Sunderlin’s students over the years that were based on experimental foods work.  Many of the recipes developed from these experiments were subsequently published in magazines or extension publications and reflect Sunderlin’s larger impact on the development of...
Dates: 1939 - 1954; Other: Date acquired: 01/05/1987