Thank you, Amy, for sharing a link to these amazing historical volumes on cooking and keeping a home in the late 18th to early 20th century. I, too, could spend hours looking at these windows into the past.
Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project
After delving into the world of "Aunt Babette," I learned that we make coffee the same way she did 141 years ago. But she had some other interesting ideas for drinks, like Eierbier (Beer with eggs in it..mmmm) and Hot Beer (Hot beer with eggs and milk...whoa).
In another volume, The American Woman's Home, by Harriet Beecher Stowe (remember Uncle Tom's Cabin?), I found evidence of her early efforts for gender equality.
"The authors of this volume, while they sympathize with every honest effort to relieve the disabilities and sufferings of their sex, are confident that the chief cause of these evils is the fact that the honor and duties of the family state are not duly appreciated, that women are not trained for these duties as men are trained for their trades and professions, and that, as the consequence, family labor is poorly done, poorly paid, and regarded as menial and disgraceful.
"To be the nurse of young children, a cook, or a housemaid, is regarded as the lowest and last resort of poverty, and one which no woman of culture and position can assume without loss of caste and respectability.
"It is the aim of this volume to elevate both the honor and the remuneration of all the employments that sustain the many difficult and sacred duties of the family state and thus to render each department of woman's true profession as much desired and respected as the most honored professions of men."
It is easy to discount the past, finding humor in the ignorance, mistakes, and follies of people who lived before us. I like this passage because it reminds that women not only fought for equal voting rights, but for keeping a home and raising children to be respected and on equal standing ground with men's professional work.
I don't think we've quite arrived yet, since child care is still one of the lowest paid professions, but we have come a long way.
Thank you to all those who have gone before!