The Old Girl Network: Charity Cookbooks and the Empowerment of Women

April 20, 2013


The Old Girl Network: Charity Cookbooks and the Empowerment of Women Presented by Janice Bluestein Longone Curator of American Culinary History, University of Michigan’s Special Collections Division

Before mass media, communication and transit, the first wave of the women’s movement was already active via the most ordinary of objects – the lowly cookbook. “Charity cookbooks,” a legacy of the Civil War, championed many causes: suffrage, education, temperance, prohibition, equal rights, working conditions, welfare, immigration, and legal rights and responsibilities, while benefiting churches, schools, sororities, the homeless, and others in need. The effort required to create, publish and distribute the books created networks of communication, which nurtured fledging political movements that transformed American culture.  The books demonstrate how women worked together to help themselves, other women, and the outside world, while, along the way, the recipes and how-to advice in the books offer a compelling glimpse into America’s cooking habits and its region-by-region culinary heritage.
As many people do not understand why we preserve these ephemeral materials, we invite you to our illustrated lecture to see the politics just under every woman’s nose (and, often, behind many men’s backs).  In short, if you think cookbooks are dull with nothing but recipes (as interesting as they may be) in them, then this is the lecture to prove you wrong!

Recorded live Saturday, April 20, 2013 at Kendall College.