I honestly never thought that women’s rights, more specifically the right to vote, could be aided by the production of cookbooks. When I first heard about this, I thought that it was strange. Why use a stereotypically “women-only” and gender role conforming book that promotes women at home to fight for the right to vote? Shouldn’t the women want to break free from this assigned role? After reading the article and listening to Ms. O’Connell, I realized the genius in this method. Cookbooks are so universal in women’s lives. Personally, I have about fifteen cookbooks at my house. They are so accessible, and they can be helpful with real recipes, or funny with the satirical recipes like ‘"Anti's Favorite Hash’ — "anti" for anti-suffragists— including a generous handful of injustice, a pound of truth thoroughly mangled, a little vitriol for tang, and a string of nonsense to be stirred with a sharp knife.”
I find this type of sarcasm extremely amusing. Recipes that call for “child labor” or “war” appeal to my twisted sense of humor. There were also recipes that require women to show strength when they must kill the animals themselves. In one decadent recipe, “the terrapin has to be killed before cooking, and the killing is no easy matter," the author wrote. "The head must be cut off, and, as the sight is peculiarly acute, the cook must exercise great ingenuity in concealing the weapon." The decapitated terrapin was then to be "boiled until the feet can be easily pulled off.” Recipes like these show the potential strength that women have.
I also found one of the suffragettes interesting: Dr. Stockham. She was anti-corset (the first “free the nipple” enthusiast?) and pro-masturbation, however she was also anti-birth control pill, because she didn’t like the mental barrier it created during sex. Her views were radical, and she contrasted nicely with Sylvester Graham, the Presbyterian reformer who believed rich food promoted sexual appetite, and so he invented the Graham cracker as a plain cracker to quell sexual desire, which I find very amusing.
What stuck with me from the presentation was a quotation from the front slide that was also in the reading. It read: "Idiots, lunatics, paupers, felons and women shall not be entitled to vote.” Women were not only stuck in this group with the unwanted from society, including felons and idiots, but they were also the last in the group; they were at the back. Rhetoric like this was harmful to the cause, and even more harmful was what some women were saying. It was hard to imagine that some women spoke against getting the right to vote and believed they didn’t need it. They believed that they voted through their husbands. These women were complacent with the established power imbalance. The difference between what the women at Seneca Falls wrote in their “Declaration of Independence” and the list of reasons other women wrote against it shocked me. Because they happened at the same time, I equate this to African-Americans not wanting slavery to be abolished.
I don’t believe in separating the years of feminism by waves. By doing that we separate certain pioneers into eras with assigned goals and ideals. There were also women who existed in two or in-between eras. I think a lot is lost by setting definite bounds. Generalizations are made about each wave that don’t apply to every suffragette and it undermines their struggle.