PORTLAND — Edith L. Webber was a pioneer of sorts, even if her realm was mainly inside the home.

Mrs. Webber, who died last week at 91, was the forerunner of people like Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart, hosting two cooking shows that aired during television’s early years. She later went on to become a home economics teacher for three years at Portland High School and for 24 years at Deering High School.

Mrs. Webber was one of six children, all of whom went to college, said her sister Jeanne Ross of Walnut Grove, Calif. Ross said she and her sister both went to Simmons College in Boston, earning bachelor’s degrees, and eventually both became home economics teachers.

Mrs. Webber later went on to earn a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern Maine.

With four girls in the family, “the one out the door first was the best dressed,” Ross said, remembering intense negotiations with her sister over whose shoes went the best with which outfits.

After college, Mrs. Webber demonstrated home products for Philco, traveling around the Northeast, Ross said.

Ross said she doesn’t know how the television shows came about, but in the early 1950s, Mrs. Webber was the hostess of “The Maine Kitchen” on Channel 53 and then “Cooking Can be Fun,” on WMTW-TV.

Ross said Mrs. Webber’s shows focused on traditional New England cooking, and she may not have been the best cook in the family.

That title, Ross said, may have belonged to their sister Dorothy, who was a little more adventurous and willing to try new recipes and types of food.

Mrs. Webber, she said, “was very technical and exacting,” and her meals were good, but not as innovative as her sister’s.

Mrs. Webber’s shows also featured interviews with cooking contest winners, and Ross said she once learned that her California dentist’s sister had been inteviewed by Mrs. Webber after winning a Pillsbury cooking contest.

Ross remembered her sister telling her that one segment of the cooking show came about in an unusual way.

“(Making) a pie crust was featured one time because she had pretty hands,” Ross said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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