Philadelphia: Women's Centennial Executive Committee, . First edition. Original green publisher's cloth binding embossed in bright gilt and black to spine and front board featuring the motto "E Pluribus Unum" [From Many, One]. Some rubbing to extremities and spotting to rear board; corners bumped. Hinges tender but holding well. Brown coated endpapers. Contemporary ownership signature in pencil on front flyleaf: "R. S. Luce from Eliza, Bought at Centennial." Internally complete and pleasing, with occasional finger soiling not affecting text, and largely concentrated on pages 190-191 and 211-212. With a modest presence at institutions and no other copies on the market, the present work documenting the intersection of women's domestic labor and activism has become quite scarce, especially in this condition.
The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 -- the very first official World's Fair hosted by the U.S. -- took place in Philadelphia from May 10-November 10 of that year. Overlapping the the Centennial of the Declaration of Independence, the event took on additional significance to the women's right's movement, thanks to Susan B. Anthony and the NWSA's disruption of Centennial events at Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Rights of Women was read and distributed on July 4. While Anthony orchestrated this important historical moment, her collaborator Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the Women's Centennial Executive Committee to ensure that women had a presence at the World's Fair events. Beginning three years prior, in 1873, the committee was "formally recognized by the United States government, the women's work was circumscribed by male officials. Women were restricted to fundraising, gathering petition signatures, creating a Women's Pavilion at the Centennial Exhibition, and choosing the music" (Falvey). The committee's work was highly strategic as a result. Designing the Women's Pavilion as a celebration of women's public work in fields like fine arts, industrial crafts, wood carving, science, medicine, and technology, fundraising projects that seemed safely ensconced in domestic spaces became touched with political resistance. Even the act of cooking became a means for public authority. "Female organizers attempted to translate the individual values and attributes of womanhood into social action, thereby increasing women's influence in the public realm. By expanding rather than rejecting woman's sphere, Centennial women employed a popular means for justifying female autonomy outside the home" (Cordato). Producing a cookery was a highly effective strategy. A useful volume like this was easy for a woman to justify purchasing and bringing into her home, filled as it was with receipts for delectables like Charlotte Russe and hardy dishes like stew. But purchasing and using it also became a financial contribution to resistance, and a visible sign of it. The Women's Committee understood and acknowledged this. "It was thought proper in a department exclusively devoted to 'women's work' that cookery-- an art consigned so largely to her -- should not be forgotten," reads the Preface. The present volume of this scarce work was a gift, purchased by one woman at the exhibition and given to another, per the ownership inscription. Per the finger soiling around favorite recipes, it was also clearly employed in the kitchen. An excellent example of activism at a critical historical moment.
Not in Krichmar. Kramer 3853. (Item #2766)