Anderson, South Carolina: 1856. Quarter cloth over marbled wraps. Spine largely perished, and signs throughout of dampstaining and water exposure, not affecting text. Containing 49 manuscript pages largely in a single hand, with an addition 17 loose manuscript pages and 20 loose newspaper and recipe clippings laid in. A unique opportunity to examine Southern women's seminary education, and the extent to which school materials and lessons translated into use in adult womanhood.
Rebecca Ann Dowling (b.1840) was a student at the Johnson Female Seminary, founded by Southern Baptist Convention members in 1848. The school provided girls with a rigorous education that included, alongside music, and fine arts, courses in science, Classical Languages (Latin and Greek), and Modern Languages (French, German, Spanish, and Italian). Rebecca's exercise book gives us some sense of the work these young women undertook. The two preliminary leaves of the manuscript state "Rebecca Ann Dowling's Book. Analysis in Physiology" and "My Physiology Analysis. I wonder if she loves me, I'd give the world to know. Rebecca Ann Dowling. Duncanville, Barnwell Dist. So. Ca. -- Miss Theodosia A. Willis. Willotson Barnwell Dist. South Carolina." In what follows, she conducts a biological study; early pages contain notes from specific textbook chapters, while the end portion appears to be notes for a presentation on biological functions of the brain, sensory organs, and respiratory system (this is further supported by a line concluding this section: "I recited this Analysis October 8th 1856, Johnson University"). Her work is thorough and detailed, composed and presented with the collaboration of a fellow student, Theodosia Willis (b.1838).
The pages offer a look into women's antebellum education, offering a chance to consider how it changed during and after the Civil War (which closed this seminary down, though it reopened in the next century as Anderson University). It also has layered within it a sign of the work Rebecca undertook in her adulthood. The first several leaves of content are pasted over with contemporary recipe clippings for dishes ranging from Stewed Oysters to Lemon Pie; and previously blank leaves contain recipes in a later or different hand for Pickled Peaches and Queen Cake. Inserted as well are collections of clippings -- obituaries, poetry, and a significant number of recipes -- and a variety of handwritten recipes that appear to have been shared and passed among multiple women (various hands, and at least one transmittal address are present). By womanhood, Rebecca has become a wife and mother as well, running her own household and taking on a new kind of labour.
Research opportunities for the connection and opposition between Rebecca's early training and her adult life abound. Also present are chances to study the history of American women's education in the North and South, before and after the war; and to consider the transmission of recipes, approaches to health and supply chain in kitchens, and the ways the war altered access to ingredients or reshaped taste. A lingering question on this manuscript also deserves attention. Rebecca's opening "I wonder if she loves me, I'd give the world to know" may have something to do with the study she is undertaking; but it also may not. For hidden at the very back of the notebook in her early hand, on the verso of the last page, she writes "I am going home in a few more weeks, that dear place, the sweetest place on earth"; and beneath it, in another hand in pencil is added "is it possible. Will you ever cast one thought on me, when you go there?"
U.S. Census 1850. SC Picture Project. (Item #4212)