The Suffrage Cookbook, 1886

It may seem slightly ironic to some today that there is a suffrage cookbook (in fact, there are multiple, but thats a story for another time). After all, weren’t these women trying to free themselves from their domestic duties and launch themselves into the public realm? Some perhaps, most no. Isn’t the kitchen a symbol of their oppression? I would argue not.

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First a moment of the cookbook, and its origin. The Suffrage Cookbook was published as a fundraiser for the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA), which was associated with the more “conservative” national suffrage organization, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) founded by Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe. The national organization came into existence when the American Equal Rights Associated split over the issue of the Fifteenth Amendment. To make a long and sordid tale short, some women opposed the Fifteenth Amendment unless women were included (such as Susan B. Anthony ,Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage). Others believed they should support African American suffrage, even if women weren’t included (this latter group became the AWSA). The two organizations actually merged in 1890 for a number of reasons, though this cookbook precedes that by a few years (for the first edition, the second edition was printed in 1890).

What is interesting about the cookbook is the assortment of contributors. There are major suffrage activists who contribute recipes; a number of female physicians (no easy accomplishment in 1886), but the majority are women who use the title Mrs., sometimes even followed by their husband’s name, like this:

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By the late 1800s Suffrage was becoming a more mainstream cause (I will talk about this when I get to my post on Francis Willard in particular). There are many “regular” housewives , mother, grandmothers, etc., who were fighting for the vote. Cooking and other household activities were part of their lives. Even women who decided to never marry, such as Alice Stone Blackwell, needed to cook; in fact, she has numerous recipes in the book (included a somewhat suspect egg recipe to make when you have unexpected company over).

Not to mention, there was the negative opinion at the time that women who fought for the vote were neglecting their familial and household duties. Publishing a cookbook may have just seemed like a good way to combat view. A woman could not only spend her free time fighting for universal suffrage, but she could also make delicious cakes, clean her house, and take care of the ill (there is an entire section on taking care of invalids–its…odd).

The book ends with pages of quotes supporting Woman Suffrage by prominent people. Some of my personal favorites include:

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And this is where I will leave it for today. Next time I’ll have a recipe for you!

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