Tag Archives: women

America’s First Regional Cookbook (Thanks, Virginia!)

Today’s post is from Kira Dietz, Virginia Tech Special Collections.

In 1824, Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife: Or, the Methodical Cook was published. Considered one of the first American regional and first Virginia cookbooks, it includes an eclectic variety of recipes for the home, along with Mrs. Randolph’s observations on a number of topics. Virginia Tech Special Collections is home to a copy of a coveted 1824 first edition, but its condition prevents it from being scanned. So this week, we’re sharing the 1846 edition from our collection (we also have an 1855!), which was clearly used in someone’s kitchen–and there’s plenty of stains to prove it!

Mrs. Randolph’s book opens with some advice to her readers, or, more specifically, to the ladies of the household:

Management is an art that may be acquired by any woman of good sense and tolerable memory…The Virginia ladies, who are proverbially good managers, employ themselves, while their servants are eating, in washing the cups, glasses, &c.; arranging the cruets, the mustard, the salt-cellars, pickle vases, and all the apparatus for the dinner table. This occupies but a short time, and the lady has the satisfaction of knowing that they are in much better order than they would be if left to the servants.

Title page of the 1846 edition.

Title page of the 1846 edition.

 Regardless of who does the actual cooking, Mrs. Randolph continues to reinforce a woman’s responsibility for the household and kitchen. She should know what is going on at all times to make the best impression.

As for the recipes, Mrs. Randolph offers the total range: beef and other meats (including several uses for calf’s head), poultry, fish and other seafood, vegetables, breads, cakes, puddings, jams, creams, and (what cookbook with be complete without!) pickles. There is also a section with beers, wines, cordials, and vinegars. The book contains international recipes, particularly those with Spanish and East/West Indies influence, as well as recipes from other regions of the US. There are pastas, polentas, and New England style cakes alongside southern staples like croquettes and catfish. Among the puddings and preserves are instructions for coffee and fruit ice creams. (Mmm, coffee ice cream!)

So, whether it’s breakfast for the family or a multi-course dinner for guests, Mrs. Randolph can help. Her book is still reprinted today. Although it shares certain characteristics with other cookbooks of the period (particularly the lack of specific directions of cooking times and temps), none of her recipes are beyond the capabilities of the modern kitchen. As for taste, well, that’s another story. Whether you want to make mock turtle soup from a calf’s head is entirely up to you…

What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” has been an active blog at Virginia Tech Special Collections since 2011 and is largely the work of archivist, amateur culinary history, and wannabe cocktail archivist, Kira Dietz. Each week, it features an item or items from the History of Food & Drink Collection and throughout the year, we share promotions for local food events, favorite images, favorite quotes, unsettling recipes, and food news. And we poke fun—because with the kind of gelatin recipes we have, who wouldn’t?

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Mary E. Fox photograph collection at GMU Special Collections and Archives

Originally posted on George Mason University’s Special Collections & Archives blog Vault217 on March 21, 2014 by Greta Kuriger Suiter.

In honor of Women’s History Month I thought it would be appropriate to share a collection of photographs taken by, and mostly of, women from the 1940s. The Mary Elsie Fox photograph collection documents Fox’s, and her friends’, personal lives in Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. during the 1940s, at a time when she was working at the newly opened Pentagon. The collection consists of 423 photographs and one document from a discarded photo album that was found by George Mason University staff and was donated to the University Special Collections and Archives in 2006. The images in the collection date from 1935 to 1959. The entire collection has been scanned and is available as a digital collection.

Screenshot from the Mary Elsie Fox digital collection. George Mason University, Special Collections & Archives

Screenshot from the Mary Elsie Fox digital collection. George Mason University, Special Collections & Archives.

The Fox collection is an excellent example of vernacular photography. It was created for personal use and with no artistic aspirations. In many of the photographs Fox and her friends are featured socializing and posing in or near Washington D.C.. Some of the images were also taken in Norway and other geographic locations in the United States and Europe that Fox herself may not have visited since she is not as visible in these photographs. As a collection, some of the images could have been taken by Fox, though it is difficult to know for certain, but all of them were collected, stored, and used by her. Many of the images are identified by writing on their verso indicating dates, names, and places, but there are also many that are not identified in any way. Some of the handwriting differs indicating that Fox was not the only one writing descriptions and that she may have received photographs from friends as gifts. These photographs serve as evidence of average people who chose to photograph themselves for their own enjoyment, posterity, and memory. Today they exist removed from their original function and may provide useful information for researchers about how people lived and recorded their existence at a certain time and place in history.

Screenshot of the Mary E. Fox photograph collection on Tumblr.

Screenshot of the Mary E. Fox photograph collection on Tumblr.

Last fall, for the course HIST 696: Clio Wired: An Introduction to History and New Media at George Mason University, I created a digital project on Tumblr using photographs from the Fox collection. This site breaks down the photographs by dates into piles that can be shuffled through. Click on the image above to visit the site.

Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection at Virginia Tech Special Collections

Architecture has often been, and in many ways still is, a male dominated profession.  Early female pioneers in architecture were deemed “that exceptional one” based on a quote from Pietro Belluschi, FAIA stating, “If [a woman] insisted on becoming an architect, I would try to dissuade her.  If then, she was still determined, I would give her my blessing – she could be that exceptional one.” Virginia’s exceptional one was Mary Brown Channel.

Born December 8, 1907 to William Ambrose Brown and Mary Ramsay Brown of Portsmouth, VA, Channel attended Randolph-Macon’s Woman’s College earning a bachelor of Mathematics in 1929. She wanted to follow her brother to the University of Virginia to study architecture, but women were not accepted into the University’s graduate programs at the time. She instead applied and was accepted to Cornell University’s School of Architecture.

Graduating second in her class in 1933, she was the first woman to win the Baird Prize Competition Medal. The Baird Prize was a six day design competition held by Cornell for architecture students in their junior and senior years. Channel was awarded the second prize medal for her design of a “monumental aeration fountain for the city reservoir.”

Channel returned to Portsmouth, VA after graduation and began her career with the Norfolk architecture firm Rudolph, Cooke and Van Leeuwen. She drew no salary for her two years but gained valuable experience working with the team that designed the main post office in Norfolk as well as several other civic and organizational buildings. In 1935, Channel was one of three candidates in a class of five to pass Virginia Examining Board’s licensing exam becoming Virginia’s first licensed female architect.

Following her licensure, she opened her own practice. In October, 1941 she married local businessman Warren Henry Channel. After the birth of her first child she limited her practice to residences and churches. Channel retained her license until 1990 and was actively drawing plans into her eighties.

She designed structures throughout southeastern Virginia. Some of her projects include the Lafayette Square Arch housing the main entrance of the demolished American National Bank, the old Virginia Power Company Building on High Street, Channel Furniture Store in Greenbrier, numerous houses, church additions, and renovations.

She was recognized in October, 1987, at an occasion honoring Portsmouth’s local and statewide notables. Channel died in 2006.

You can view the full collection guide for the Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection on Virginia Heritage.

From the Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection.

From the Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection.

The Home Interest Club Records at Thomas Balch Library

Women’s clubs surged in popularity in the early years of the twentieth century. Groups of women gathered to discuss current affairs, domestic subjects, home gardening techniques, and new developments in preserving and preparing food. Women’s clubs developed in many communities as outgrowths of cooperative extension services, which were funded through land-grant universities by the federal Smith-Lever Act of 1914. In other areas not served by land-grant universities, groups formed through church, family, and neighborhood associations.

Image from the Jane Hirst Bogle Photograph Collection (VC 0005), Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA.

Image from the Jane Hirst Bogle Photograph Collection (VC 0005), Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA.

In Loudoun County, Virginia, the Home Interest Club was founded in the fall of 1903 by a group of women near Lincoln and operated until March 2013. Most of the founding women were members of the Society of Friends, though involvement with the Friends was not a prerequisite for membership in the club. The constitution and bylaws of the club state that it was to “Benefit the home by making housekeeping easier in the exchanging of recipes and the discussion of all topics tending to elevate and improve the home.” One of the original requirements of membership was that every woman share a proven recipe at each meeting. Some of the recipes were eventually published in a cookbook written to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the founding of the club.

The club held monthly meetings that consisted of a roll call, discussion of club business, a program, and refreshments. The program usually consisted of one or more presentations by members. Presentations often included readings from published material or original writings, but were usually informational in nature. Topics included temperance, suffrage for women, civil rights for African Americans, foreign affairs, local history, and current events. During the meeting held just prior to the presidential election of 1920, the first national election in which women could vote, the women discussed what would happen at the polls and went through the steps of voting. During World War II there was a program on using sugar substitutes and members were asked to contribute sugar-shortage recipes. The membership also shared ideas about education, child rearing, and household maintenance.

More information about the Home Interest Club of Loudoun County can be found at Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, Virginia.

You can view the full collection guide for the Home Interest Club Records, 1903-2013 (M 077) on Virginia Heritage.