Washington Equal Suffrage Association publishes Washington Women's Cook Book in Seattle in late 1908.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 5/02/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8552

In late 1908, the Washington Equal Suffrage Association publishes the Washington Women's Cook Book.  The book, comprising recipes donated by suffragists from around the state, is planned as a fundraiser for the group and to carry the woman suffrage message into Washington homes.  In February 1909 the Washington State Legislature agrees to place an equal suffrage amendment on the November 1910 ballot. The Washington Women's Cook Book is sold during the 1909-1910 suffrage campaign, including at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, becoming part of Washington suffragists' so-called "still hunt" strategy to win the support of male voters through the influence of their daughters, wives, and mothers.

The cookbook's title page bore the legend:

Give us the vote and we will cook
The better for a wide outlook.

Each chapter began with a brief pro-suffrage quotation. Entrees, for example, took Abraham Lincoln's "I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in bearing its burdens -- by no means excluding women" (p. 28). Canning, Preserving, Pickles boasted the suffrage favorite, Susan B. Anthony's "Failure is impossible" (p. 108)

The Washington Women's Cook Book was sold throughout the state, and especially in Seattle during the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition. Linda Deziah Jennings of LaConner edited the volume, corresponding about its progress with Washington Equal Suffrage Association president Emma Smith Devoe (1848-1927).

Demonstrating Domesticity

The Washington Women's Cook Book soothed men who worried that voting women would throw off their domestic traces, and offered suffragists a Trojan horse. The thick pro-suffrage crust surrounding homey recipes invited a woman to peruse the message of equality while warming the oven to bake Hot Water Sponge Cake (p. 91) or waiting for Smothered Chicken (p. 23) to brown. Such cookbooks offered suffragists a chance to raise money for the cause, a chance to proselytize, but most important they were calculated to provide demonstrations of domesticity.

Washington suffragists actively cultivated the perception that the right to vote, or even the pursuit of that right, would not sway or distract them from their domestic duties. On January 25, 1909, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer featured a photograph of Washington Equal Suffrage Association president Emma DeVoe determinedly cooking and cleaning with Mrs. George (probably Corrine) Mellott and Adelaide Belote under the headline "Woman Suffragists Busy Peeling Potatoes When Not Getting Votes." The short article that accompanied the photograph had an Olympia dateline and read:

 "When the women suffrage lobbyists are not getting votes for their bill, or writing letters or checking up lists, they are peeling potatoes, sweeping and doing other house work. Unlike other lobbyists, the woman suffragists do not have a large fund to spend. At the headquarters in the Horr residence on Main Street, an establishment is maintained and the lobbyists themselves do all the work. When a supporter of the movement to get votes for women goes back home, there is always somebody else to take her place" (p.1).

The Spokesman-Review quoted Ella Hawley Crossett, president of the New York State Suffrage Association, who was in Spokane with other leading suffragists while en route to the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in Seattle: "There are no better housekeepers in the world than suffragists and their daughters. I have been in the homes of both suffragists and anti-suffragists, and invariably I find that the homes of the women who believe in 'women's rights' are the most orderly and well arranged" (June 29, 1909).

Other Suffrage Cookbooks

The Washington Women's Cook Book fell within the popular genre of charity cookbooks: books of recipes volunteered by members of a particular community, compiled by a designated member, and sold to raise funds for the group or for a particular cause. Beginning during the Civil War, churches, granges, schools, neighborhoods, towns, and service organizations all compiled charity cookbooks, and have continued to do so.

The year 1886 marked the publication of The Woman Suffrage Cook Book. In her editor's note, Bostonian Hattie A. Burr voiced hope that the book, which she called "our messenger" would "go forth a blessing to housekeepers, and an advocate for the elevation and enfranchisement of woman" (p. iii). Among the contributors to the volume was Portland, Oregon, resident Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915), mother of the suffrage movement in the Pacific Northwest. Duniway may have suggested a cookbook to Washington suffragists, although it seems certain that many would have owned copies of the Boston book.

In 1915 the Equal Franchise Federation of Western Pennsylvania published The Suffrage Cook Book. The book was dedicated to Fanny Garrison Villard (1844-1928), widow of Henry Villard and a longtime suffragist. Fanny Villard was among the suffrage leaders in Seattle for the July 1909 National American Woman Suffrage Association convention, and it is possible that she carried a copy of the Washington Women's Cook Book home in her suitcase. A number of those who contributed recipes for this book were also in Seattle for the 1909 convention and may have purchased the Washington Women's Cook Book, including Anna Howard Shaw, Laura Kleber, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Harriet Taylor Upton.

Recipes and Rhetoric

The Junior Equal Suffrage League compiled the Confectionary chapter in the Washington Women's Cook Book. These younger suffragists may have had more appetite for sweets and more time than their mothers did to fuss with boiling Seafoam, White Taffy, Turkish Delight, Chocolate Caramels, and home-made Marshmallows. A brief Vegetarian section included recipes for Nut Roast With Lentils, Rice Patties, and Asparagus Shortcake.

Chapters on Household Economy and Helpful Hints gave way to information on the Pure Food Movement. This section, compiled by Jennie White Ellis of Tacoma, listed the three most important phases of securing the nation's food safety: "First -- The study of pure food laws and their enforcement. Second -- The improvement of the milk supply. Third -- The improvement of sanitary conditions in provision stores" and concluded "Why may not Washington have the very best pure food conditions?" (p. 201).

Mountaineering in Petticoats

The Mountaineers Club was founded in 1906 with a charter membership of 77 women and 74 men. Dr. Cora Smith Eaton, one of these founders, was also a suffrage leader in Washington and the treasurer of the Washington Equal Suffrage Association. The Washington Women's Cook Book included a detailed Mountaineers' Chapter that detailed Cooking In Camp, How To Build A Camp Fire, Provisions for Four People One Week, and other handy information for incipient mountaineers.

Cora Smith Eaton, L. A. Nelson, and Robert Carr (a member of Cooks' Union, Local 33, Seattle and the Mountaineers' official chef in 1907 and 1908) collaborated on recipes for mountaineering. Nelson provided a "Men's List of Absolute Necessities" in two versions, one for Man Pack and one for Pack Horse. Eaton contributed a "Women's List For The Mountains." Carr added a section of Sailor's Recipes, which began with a recipe for Dolphin and carried the caveat "Dolphin are good to eat part of the year, and are poisonous at times. Boil a copper coin with the dolphin. If it tarnishes the copper, the dolphin is not fit to eat. If it remains bright, the dolphin is good" (p. 142).

Progress of Woman Suffrage

The final portions of The Washington Women's Cook Book focused on the push toward enfranchisement. A short section titled "Progress of Woman Suffrage" gave a bird's-eye view of the previous century of woman suffrage world wide.

Washington suffragist Adella M. Parker provided a longer section, "How Washington Women Lost The Ballot." The article offered a recap of Washington women's twisted voting rights saga. It began, "How the women of Washington lost the ballot, though men twice voted it to them ... this is the story of how Washington women were tricked out of their political rights" (p. 204).

Pots and Politics

In January 1976 during the push for a national Equal Rights Amendment the Washington State Women's Political Caucus republished the Washington Women's Cookbook in facsimile within a larger text called Pots And Politics. The 1976 portions of the cookbook included a chronological report of suffrage in Washington state, an updated section on mountaineering, and a section entitled "Speed Cooking -- Recipes For the Busy Political Worker, Elected Official or Candidate (not Governors who have a Staff ...)," perhaps a tongue-in-cheek swipe at then gubernatorial candidate and later the first woman governor of Washington, Dixy Lee Ray (1914-1994) (Pots And Politics, p. 3).

Sources: Washington Women's Cookbook compiled by Linda Deziah Jennings (Seattle: Washington Equal Suffrage Association, ca. 1908); The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume V, 1900-1920 ed. by Ida Husted Harper (New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922); Marte Jo Sheeran, "The Woman Suffrage Issue In Washington, 1890-1910" (master's thesis, University of Washington, May 27, 1977), p. 129; Mary Susan Pacey, "The Breakthrough State: The Washington State Suffrage Campaign of 1906-1910" (master's thesis, University of Washington, June 5, 1978); Pots And Politics: An Historical Cookbook, From The Suffragists To The Equal Rights Amendment ed. by Shirlie Kaplan (Tacoma: Washington State Women's Political Caucus, 1976); Laura Schenone, A Thousand Years Over A Hot Stove (New York: Norton & Company, 2003); "Sidelights on Suffrage Visitors -- Many Noted Women City's Guests," The Spokesman-Review, June 29, 1909; "Woman Suffragists Busy Peeling Potatoes When Not Getting Votes," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 25, 1909; Laura Schenone, "Suffragists Knew How To Make A Stir on Holidays," Women's eNews website accessed February 11, 2008 (http://www.womensnews.org); The Suffrage Cook Book compiled by Mrs. L. O. Kleber (Pittsburgh: The Equal Franchise Federation of Western Pennsylvania, 1915); The Woman Suffrage Cook Book ed. by Hattie A. Burr (Boston: Hattie A. Burr, 1886); Jim Kjeldsen, The Mountaineers: A History (Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1998); Letter from Linda Deziah Jennings to Emma Smith Devoe, August 27, 1908, Box 2, Folder 15, Manuscript Collection 171 (Emma Smith Devoe papers), Washington State Library.

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