Date of Award

Spring 2021

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Cristy A Beemer

Second Advisor

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper

Third Advisor

Robin Hackett


My dissertation restores to the canon of women’s rhetorical history a voice who, in her time of the early twentieth century, made a mark on the world of food writing. By identifying Sheila Hibben’s rhetorical strategy of sass as a method of critiquing hierarchies and as a feminist rhetorical practice, my work contributes to the field of rhetoric and composition.This dissertation defines and deconstructs Sheila Hibben’s sass as a rhetorical strategy during two essential periods of economic crises—the Great Depression and World War II—to influence two audiences of white working- and upper-class housewives to eat well during times of national financial hardship. With her published cookbooks on American regional cuisine and thirty years of her food columns in The New Yorker magazine, Hibben persuaded housewives to be proud of their American culinary identity, to embrace traditional regional cuisines, and to reject fancier fare for the sake of fashion. She attempted to change consumer behavior by developing a new rhetorical strategy for food writing and left behind a legacy in women’s rhetorical history by acting as an early twentieth century American culinary biographer. For Hibben, sass was not just a tone of sarcasm or bluntness, but a form of honesty. Hibben’s sass defied the dominant material culture of a patriarchal capitalist system by performing an unapologetic appetitive confidence and influencing a large demographic of women to eat traditional regional dishes that spoke to a national identity. Sheila Hibben opened conversations that impacted everyday household decisions made primarily by women as part of their everyday unpaid labor. Today, we can utilize strategies like Hibben’s to influence eating and consumer behavior by educating the larger public in order to provide access to people of all income levels so that they might eat well on a budget and thrive.