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In the early days of the university, fraternities met in secret. Their exposure ignited a conflict that transformed U-M into the institution it is today.
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"Idiots, lunatics, paupers, felons and women": how cookbooks became the suffragists' best friends
March 11, 2008
Whatever one thinks of Hillary Clinton as a potential President, everyone recognizes that her candidacy is a social landmark. It's also a reminder that women have only held a Constitutional right to vote since 1920. Clinton's own mother was born before women could vote.
We've come a long way from the early days of the Illinois Constitutional Law that lumped women in with an unflattering list of people denied suffrage: "Neither idiots, lunatics, paupers, felons nor women shall be entitled to vote."
suffragists brought our nation forward, and leaders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe are rightly remembered for their contributions to women's rights. Often forgotten, however, are the efforts of anonymous thousands of women who built the women's suffrage movement.
Also forgotten, one of their most unlikely and effective weapons: the cookbook.
In 1848, concerned women met at Seneca Falls, NY to discuss the social, civil, and religious conditions and rights of women. The meeting is often seen as the start of the suffrage movement. By 1870, women were staging mammoth bazaars and fairs to raise funds for suffrage work. Then "The Woman Suffrage Cook Book of 1886" was published; it was offered for sale at many of these gatherings. The novel method worked well. People who had never heard of woman suffrage came to the fairs, impelled by curiosity to see what sort of women made such a public exhibition of their zeal.
The road to the 19th amendment, which assured women a Constitutional right to vote, was long and often dispiriting. But there were small victories along the way. In 1875, Michigan granted women suffrage in school issues. By 1887 women in Kansas could vote in municipal elections. The women of Utah and Idaho got full suffrage in 1896. And 1892 brought the first US presidential election in which some women cast legal votes.
These were no passive women fighting for what they felt was rightly theirs as citizens and in 1916 the more militant of their organizations chained themselves to the White House fence. But women also kept producing suffrage cookbooks to rally their spirits.
Many of these historic cookbooks can be found at the University of Michigan's Longone Archive of American Culinary History at Clements Library. Each cookbook is unique, but all contain inspiring quotes and submissions from authors, poets, and political officials from Abraham Lincoln to the governors of Arizona and California.
For instance, "The Holiday Gift Cook Book" of 1891 offers, between cucumber relish and orange pudding, this quote from author John Greenleaf Whittier, "For 50 years I have been in favor of Woman's Suffrage. I have never been able to see any good reasons for denying the ballot to women."
The "Suffrage Cook Book" of 1915, published by The Equal Franchise Federation of Western Pennsylvania, contains a recipe from author Jack London for stuffed celery to precede his version of roast duck. This book also has a recipe for baked tomatoes submitted by mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart, who collaborated with U-M's own alumnus Avery Hopwood in "The Bat."
"Pots and Politics" published by the Washington State Women's Political Caucus in 1976 brings back a slogan from a 1908 book: "Clean up politics – elect women. A woman's place is in the world."
Congress passed a woman suffrage constitutional amendment by a narrow margin in 1919. This amendment was ratified by the states in August, 1920.