The Washington Women’s Cookbook

This 1909 cookbook, recently acquired by Pioneer Book, is not what you might expect in a compilation of recipes. The pennants on the cover proclaim its twin causes: “Votes for Women” and “Good Things to Eat.”

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The Washington Women’s Cookbook is a charming example of a suffrage cookbook, a genre popularly produced by turn-of-the-century suffragists to raise money for the cause. Beginning in the mid-19th century, charity cookbooks compiling personal recipes from members of a church, school, or service organization became a popular way to earn money for a group’s activities—a fundraising strategy that endures in the many ward cookbooks that have passed through our store.

The movement for women’s suffrage was forwarded by many women who filled traditional roles at home. They didn’t have large sources of funding for their lobbying efforts. Charity cookbooks such as this one helped to finance the effort to obtain the vote. And much like the hand-sewn and appliquéd silk banners that became the visual representation of the movement, suffrage cookbooks put a subversively political spin on women’s domestic skills.

This particular cookbook was produced in Washington during that state’s push for suffrage. Washington gave women the vote in 1883, the fifth state in the nation to do so, but this move was reversed by the courts in 1888. In 1909, the Washington legislature agreed to put an equal suffrage amendment on the ballot in the November 1910 elections. The Washington Women’s Cookbook was sold by the Washington Equal Suffrage Association as part of the effort to convince male voters to support women’s suffrage in that vote.

Beneath the cover, the Washington Women’s Cookbook becomes more delightful by the page. The title page contains this surprising epigraph:

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Give us the vote and we will cook

The better for a wide outlook

Each of the recipe categories begins with a quotation promoting equal suffrage. For instance, the section entitled “Canning, Preserves, Pickles, Etc.” begins with Susan B. Anthony’s famous declaration that, in the movement for women’s suffrage, “Failure is impossible.”

The cookbook is strikingly dedicated “To the first woman who realized that half of the human race were not getting a square deal, and who had the courage to voice a protest. […] To all those valiant and undaunted soldiers of progress we dedicate our labors in compiling this volume.”

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The cookbook concludes with the history of women’s suffrage in Washington, the year’s Republican ticket, and an index of recipes.

Come in to the store to take a closer look at this piece of history. Truly a source of inspiration for your ambitions in politics and in the kitchen.

 

Read more about suffrage cookbooks in this article from Laura Schenone, author of A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told Through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances.