“Parliament Gingerbread” – Suffrage Cookbooks
By Renate Haas
In the context of the suffrage centenary, the suffrage cookbooks have again received increased attention from researchers and the general public. Two of them have been re-edited and are now available as moderately priced paperbacks. Browsing through their pages can be fun, but they are also an excellent source in various respects.
Suffrage cookbooks were the descendants of the post-Civil War charity cookbooks, published to raise funds for war victims and church-related issues. The first would seem to have been The Woman Suffrage Cookbook, edited and published by Hattie A. Burr in Boston in 1886 (re-edited by Sean Robert Hilliard in 2015). It was the result of glorious networking. 163 women and one suffragist husband contributed their recipes as well as tips for housekeeping and care of the sick. According to Burr, many of them were “eminent in their professions as teachers, lecturers, physicians, ministers and authors” and their names were “household words in the land” (original: iii; Hilliard: 3). This lent an unprecedented authority and practicability to the collection. It was sold at women‘s rights conventions in 1886 and again in 1890, and also contained some advertisements. At a time when their financial possibilities were very limited, these suffragists used their domestic qualifications to raise money for their cause, gain new commercial skills and, simultaneously, demonstrate that women were able to succeed both inside and outside the home without sacrificing one for the other.
Beside American specialties, readers will perhaps like to focus on the celebrities. For instance, the statement of Julia Ward Howe (author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as well as the novel The Hermaphrodite); Frances Willard’s defense of “stomachic rights”; Lucy Stone’s instructions for making yeast and soap, together with her daughter’s “Waterlily Eggs” and “Scalloped Onions”; Anna Ella Carroll’s gruesome details of cooking terrapin; Cora Scott Pond’s advice on boiling meats and “Chocolate Blanc Mange”; Julia A. Kellogg’s “Veal Sausage”. They may try “Mother’s Election Cake” or, as health freaks, turn to the numerous recipes of Alice B. Stockham, the fifth woman to become a licensed doctor in the US.
The second re-edition from the half-dozen suffrage cookbooks known concerns one of the last: The Suffrage Cookbook, compiled by Mrs. L.O. Kleber, published in Pittsburgh by the Equal Franchise Federation of Western Pennsylvania in 1915. Almost thirty years younger, its character is somewhat changed. It is more confident, even playful, and the two new editions differ accordingly in their additional material. While Hilliard more aims at academic use, the revamping of writer and publisher Cheryl Robson forms part of anniversary projects and includes new vintage illustrations (which may not be to the taste of experts).
Although Kleber’s volume has about one hundred pages more, the list of contributors comprises only fifty-seven names. Most recipes are given anonymously, in contrast to the numerous interspersed aphorisms relating to food and eating. Men play a greater role. Kleber asked the governors of eight Western states that had already passed suffrage laws for endorsement and their replies are given together with full-page portrait photos. The same is done with twenty-eight celebrities, some men – like the writers Jack London, Irvin S. Cobb and George Washington Cable – and more women, who contribute either statements or recipes. The most famous suffragists thus represented are Jane Addams, Kate Waller Barrett, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, Carrie Chapman Catt, Madeline (Madge) McDowell Breckinridge, Eliza Kennedy, Julia Lathrop, Lady Constance Lytton, Ruth McCormick, Bertha Rauh, Margaret Dreier Robins, Helen Ring Robinson, Anna Howard Shaw, Harriet Taylor Upton, and Fanny Garrison Villard. A special attraction are Nazimova’s photo and hand-written quotation from the feminist anti-war play War Brides (original: 132-n.p.).
Diverse recipes carry witty titles, such as “Suffrage Angel Cake” and “Hymen Bread”. In the case of “Parliament Gingerbread”, Kleber feels obliged to append “(With apologies to the English Suffragists)”. A few recipes are themselves playful or satirical, e.g., “Scripture Cake” (which adds Bible verse numbers to the ingredients), “Anti’s Favorite Hash” and the following “Pie for a Suffragist’s Doubting Husband”:
1 qt milk human kindness
8 reasons [sic]:
8,000,000 Working Women
Mix the crust with tact and velvet gloves, using no sarcasm, especially with the upper crust. Upper crusts must be handled with extreme care for they quickly sour if manipulated roughly. (Original: 147; Robson: 108)
English Studies scholars may perhaps want to experiment with Constance Lytton’s favorite “Hasty Pudding”, Carrie Chapman Catt’s “Pain d’Oeufs”, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Synthetic Quince (An Accidental Discovery)”, Mary Roberts Rinehart’s “Baked Tomatoes”, Jack and Charmian London’s “Roast Duck” with “Stuffed Celery”. Several ingredients may be difficult to get nowadays, but can be replaced more or less imaginatively. Robson even talks of creating whole Suffrage Menus. In contrast to Burr and Kleber, she nevertheless prefers to “accept no responsibility for the efficacy or otherwise of the recipes”. One authoritative adaptation can be found in the recent volume Gerichte, die die Welt veränderten [Dishes that changed the world] of the Austrian TV chef and now also Green MEP Sarah Wiener. Wiener has devoted a chapter to the suffrage cookbooks and tested Alice B. Stockham’s “Baked Pie-Plant” (from Burr). But as this is one of the simplest recipes, suspicious or unexperienced colleagues will be better served when they consult the blog of history student Lindsay Fickas, who has begun to cook through Burr’s book: https://thechippedplateblog.wordpress.com/
 Available at http://cdm16001.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15031coll26/id/442/rec/8; new ed. Aurora Metro Books, 2018.
(posted 4 June 2019)