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

The Culinary Historians of Chicago had its first meeting in 1993, and we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this year with a special lecture:  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!

In addition to being Curator of American Culinary History at the University of Michigan’s Special Collection Division at the Hatcher Library, Jan Longone is proprietor of The Wine and Food Library, America’s oldest antiquarian culinary bookshop. Ms. Longone is also founder and honorary chair of the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor.  Among her many other activities was helping to develop MSU’s “Feeding America” website.

For the post talk samples, Jan Longone suggested preparing recipes from American cookbooks.  If you wish to bring a recipe to share from an American cookbook, please alert Catherine Lambrecht using the reservation contact information.  Culinary Historians will reimburse ingredient costs.

Saturday, April 20, 2013
10 a.m. to Noon
Kendall College, School of Culinary Arts
900 N. North Branch Street, Chicago
(Located just north of W. Chicago Ave. at N. Halsted St.)
Free Parking

Cost of the lecture program  is $5, $3 for students and no charge for CHC members and Kendall students and faculty.
To reserve, please e-mail your reservation to: