Pro and con opinions regarding suffrage were expressed by both men and women. The quotes below offer a small example of what the suffragettes were up against.


“No Female Suffrage! The Woman is No Human Being”

“Attila” (ca. 1867)


“Idiots, lunatics, paupers, felons and women shall not be entitled to vote”

Constitutional Law of Illinois


On the other hand, there were many, both men and women, who supported the cause in public ways.


“Women must be enfranchised. It is a mere question of time. She must be a slave, or an equal.; there is no middle ground.”   T.W. Higgins


“To have a voice in choosing those by whom one is governed, is a means of self-protection due to every one.” 

John Stuart Mill


With only a few examples given in this online version, Cases 1 and 2 of the Exhibit at the Clements Library displayed nearly all the known suffrage cookbooks.


During the Exhibit, we displayed one of the earliest League of Women Voters charity cookbooks (1921). The League was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the last meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, approximately six months before the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. The League’s aim was to help newly-enfranchised women exercise their responsibilities as voters. The Old Girl Network was not going to waste any time!


In preparing for the exhibition on American charity cookbooks, we examined those published to raise funds to support the cause of Women’s Suffrage.  The culinary archive at the Clements Library held three; a recent acquisition added a fourth.  Each of these important books tells a story about contemporary efforts to straddle the domestic and political spheres.


Although all have some common features, each is a unique document.  The combination of domestic duties and political responsibilities are alluded to and stressed, sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively. No matter how expressed, the message comes through loud and clear.  Women should have the right to vote – now!


Even before the first cookbook in support of suffrage was written, women in America had been using the culinary arts to introduce themselves and their causes to the public.  Hundreds of fairs, festivals and bazaars were held throughout the country from the Civil War on where food was sold and served and for which a cookbook was published.  The charitable causes were most frequently church related, but were surprisingly diverse, including victims of the Civil War, hospitals, churches, libraries, temperance, children’s charities, confederate relief, homes for the friendless (unwed mothers), schools, women’s exchanges and the Y.M. and Y.W.C.A.


The Woman’s Suffrage Cook Book. As early as 1870 mammoth bazaars were held in Boston to raise funds for suffrage work and to support the Woman’s Journal, the official paper of the American Woman Suffrage Association.  As far as we know, no cookbook was published in relationship to these early suffrage fairs.  It was not until 1886 that a cookbook was published to be sold at a fair: The Woman’s Suffrage Cook Book. The Woman’s Journal devoted much space to the fair and to the cookbook, offering it as a premium to new subscribers.  Many local newspapers talked of the “splendors of the table,” of the women who “stood day after day behind sales tables, or worked in the café as caterers and waiters.”  They opined that “women in whose veins ran some of the best blood of New England, did not hesitate even at that early date to become identified with the Woman Suffrage movement.”  These newspapers spoke well of the women who had taken “this novel method” to carry on their movement and remarked that people who had never heard of Woman Suffrage came, impelled by curiosity to see what sort of women were those, who thus made a public exhibition of their zeal in this cause.  They concluded that many people who had never thought of the significance of the Woman’s Rights Movement came to hear of and consider it.


There were, however, some papers that ridiculed the women: “Alarmists of both sexes will shrink back abashed before this cook-book, for at least two recipes, which she has tested with success, will be given over the signature of each fair suffragist…. It will be a confession, a proof that, even if they wish to vote, the suffragists cherish a feminine interest in culinary matters.”  The women boldly reprinted the article in the Journal.


All recipes in the book are attributed to their donors.   They constitute a cross-section of New England suffragists as well as an honor roll of the leading literary, intellectual and political figures of the nineteenth century: Mary A.  Livermore; Lucy Stone; Julia Ward Howe; Mr. and Mrs. William Lloyd Garrison; Louisa May Alcott; Samuel E. Sewall; Alice Freeman, president of Wellesley College; and Miss Elizabeth S. Tobey, President of the Massachusetts W.C.T.U.  The book concludes with five pages of  “Eminent Opinions on Woman Suffrage,” beginning with Plato and Abraham Lincoln and ending with Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Quincy Adams


This book well represents the energy and spirit of reform for which Massachusetts was known in this period.  Two editions were published in 1886; a third, the Clements copy, in 1890 for a “Country Store.”


Holiday Gift Cook Book (The Christmas Cook Book). In 1891, a slight book, Holiday Gift Cook Book (The Christmas Cook Book) was published by the Equal Suffrage Association [E.S.A.] of Rockford, Illinois.  Each of the signed recipes is followed by a pro-suffrage quote from a famous person such as William Gladstone, John Stuart Mills or Harriet Beecher Stowe.


One of the most poignant pleas is that of Clara Barton, founder of what became the American Red Cross.  “When you were sick and wounded I toiled for you on the battlefield.  Because of my work for you, I ask your aid.  I ask the ballot for myself and my sex.  As I stood by you, I pray you stand by me and mine.”


This book shows how the suffragists appealed to other women to become politically aware and support the suffrage cause.  Thus the strong lobbying for votes for women following each recipe ends with this soft nudge:  “Dear Friends - With the wish that you may enjoy the good things made from the foregoing recipes and that the sentiments found herein will convince you that the ballot would broaden your usefulness and be a protection and safeguard, we extend to you the compliments of the season - “A Merry Christmas” and “A Happy New Year.”


Washington Women’s Cook Book. In 1909 in Seattle, The Washington Equal Suffrage Association published its Washington Women’s Cook Book.  It offers a picture of concerned women, angry at having lost, by political and legalistic chicanery, the right to vote, which they had won in 1883 when they were enfranchised by the territorial legislature.  For three and a half years they voted in state elections, in larger proportion than the men. The legal battles that followed this disenfranchisement took their toll on the Suffrage Association and it was not until the early twentieth century that the movement was revived.  One of its outreach programs was this splendid cookbook. It is a collection of recipes, menus, and quotes in support of a woman’s right to vote.  But it is more; it is a fine document on regional American life. There is A Washington State Dinner, composed solely of regional products (Olympia Oysters, Docewallops Rainbow Trout, Vashon Island Broiled Quail, Jefferson County Venison with Klickitat Chestnut Dressing, Snohomish Blackberry Pie and more).  There is a Confectionery Chapter compiled by the Junior Equal Suffrage League. A detailed history of How Washington Women Lost the Ballot and one on the Progress of Woman Suffrage are included.  There are two chapters on vegetarian cooking and one of German Recipes.  A chapter of Sailors Recipes include those for dolphin, porpoise, seal livers and hearts, and tail of shark. It also contains a List of Store Seasonings Sufficient for Twelve Months’ Voyages.  There is a fascinating Mountaineers’ Chapter for Cooking in Camp, complete with a list of provisions and a Men’s List of Absolute Necessities, whether for a Man Pack Trip or a Pack Horse Trip, as well as a Women’s List for the Mountains.


But what sets this book apart is the dedication:


“To the first woman who realized that half the human race were not getting a square deal, and who had the courage to protest; and also to the long line of women from that day unto this, who saw clearly, thought strongly, and braved misrepresentation, ridicule, calumny and social ostracism, to bring about that millennial day when humanity shall know the blessedness of dwelling together as equals.


To those valiant and undaunted soldiers of progress we dedicate our labors in compiling this volume.”


Suffrage Cook Book: A Collection of Recipes. The last book is a recent donation to the Clements. The Suffrage Cook Book: A Collection of Recipes, was issued by The Equal Suffrage League of Wayne County, Michigan and published in Detroit in 1916. The donor is the granddaughter of the proud owner of the book, Beatrice Ermatinger Hamilton (1886-1966). This book is quite scarce, as are all the books discussed.  In their foreword, the women were compelled to make the point that “an interest in politics is not incompatible with an interest in cookery.”  This book differs from the others as it has no suffragist propaganda, except for its name and the brief note in the foreword.


The Suffrage Cook Book. At least one other charity cookbook promoting women’s suffrage is known: The Suffrage Cook Book, compiled by Mrs. L.O. Kleber and published for The Equal Franchise Federation of Western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh in 1915.  At the time the Exhibition was mounted, the Clements did not have a copy of this volume. However, we have since added it to the Archive and showed it during the Exhibit. For further details on this rare book, see (**this link to Jan Longone’s exhibition lecture).


Suffrage cookbooks were polite (and sometimes not so polite) household manuals published from the end of the 19th century into the early 20th.  Although their expressed purpose was to raise funds and motivate women to join the suffrage cause, they did so much more.  They did raise the money; their cause triumphed – and all the while they gained business experience as they collected recipes from community members, sold advertising, dealt with printers, organized fairs, lectured, and founded organizations.  These cookbooks are an integral part of the history of the women’s movement.