The Washington State Library received the collection of Emma Smith DeVoe, a prominent Washington suffrage leader. Her letters and scrapbooks have been digitized and are now being indexed for the Washington Women’s History Consortium. Throughout the course of indexing, we have all discovered much about the hidden history of the suffrage movement. Here is an example:
In 1910, the Washington State Suffragists faced a crucial turning point – a ballot initiative allowed state voters to decide whether Washington women should have the vote. They faced a great deal of resistance, the initiative itself was vaguely worded, never mentioning the words “woman” or “suffrage.” Not to be deterred, the multiple women’s clubs and suffrage organizations of Washington State waged a massive campaign winning over many chapters of the grange, unions and individuals as supporters. Their tactics were creative and ranged from an all women edition of the Tacoma Daily News to “Suffrage Entertainment Nights” which featured recitations, songs and other performance. One of the most clever dual outreach and fundraiser projects was organized by the Washington Equal Suffrage Association; a cookbook – Votes for Women, Good Things to Eat: Washington Women’s Cookbook.
A common argument of anti-suffragists was that women wouldn’t take care of their homes and families if they became involved in politics. Linda Jennings found members from all over the state, including many prominent leaders, with a broad range of recipes, menu planners and household tips. Each section begins with a quote on suffrage and range from the classic ‘Entrees’ and ‘Soups’ to the surprising ‘Pineapple Deserts’ and ‘Sailors Recipes’. The cookbook is now available online through The Historic American Cookbook Project. You can download a pdf from their website. While it was difficult for a modern vegetarian to find many appetizing snacks in the book, it was a pleasure to browse and I found much of the narrative content to be incredibly relevant. We attempted the German Lightening Cake, and found the recipe difficult to execute, this is no cookbook for the casual baker. If you are up for the challenge, you could host a suffrage themed party! It was fun to discover the suffragists weren’t the stuffy old uptight crowd they are often purported to be, they could have a little fun with their opponents. From the preface – “Home, a smiling woman, and a good dinner – does not the heart of man yearn toward this trio at evening time? In the best interests of all concerned, we offer you this little book.” I don’t doubt Ms. Jennings wrote those words with a wink.
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