Women’s History Month, Part 25: Martha Lee Anderson (fl. 1930s-1940s)

Let’s start this post off honestly: I don’t know much about Martha Lee Anderson. In fact, I don’t even know if she was even a real person. However, I believe she was, since unlike the legendary Betty Crocker, her name appears in her some of publications as attributed to her as part of the Research Test Kitchen of Church & Dwight Co., Inc. So, while we can’t talk about her in detail, we can certainly see her handiwork.

Martha Lee Anderson authored or edited a LOT of pamphlets while in the employ of Church & Dwight Co., Inc. You might know this company best for a little product called Arm & Hammer baking powder? You can cook or bake with it, as well as clean you home and yourself with it! Quite a versatile product! Anderson’s pamphlets focused more on the eating part, usually compiling recipes for baked goods, though sometimes venturing into more savory dishes. “Chicken Shortcake” led to some interesting expressions when I shared it with colleagues while preparing this post. It’s not generally two words you expect to see together–but its basis is formed by baking soda biscuits!

You might notice a certain trend among the pamphlets attributed to her. Many of them share the same name: “Good Things to Eat” or “Successful Baking for Flavor and Texture,” for example. Historically speaking, many of these pamphlets went through multiple editions. When I pulled the folder from the Culinary Pamphlet Collection relating to Church & Dwight Co., Inc., I found edition number 115 of “Good Things to Eat,” published in 1936. Since the company was established in 1846, that means each year had more than one edition produced. Martha Lee Anderson was responsible, it seems for at least 18 years of them, too. The earliest item in our collection I found with her name was from 1931 and the latest was 1949. It’s possible (and likely) her tenure extended beyond this, but at the moment, we don’t have any particular items after 1949 or anything before 1931 with a name on it.

While details on her identity may be limited today, her prolific culinary pamphleteering, as it were, likely made her name more recognizable in her own time. Most of these were little publications that would have been given away for free to could be acquired for a small fee. Between the four items we have cataloged and the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, we have more than 20 pamphlets from Church & Dwight, about a dozen of which are editions authored by Anderson. The pictures above are just a sampling and even among those, you can seem some variations in covers, recipes, and style. So, if you’d like to learn more about Martha’s recipes, you’re welcome to stop by and see them in person. You might find some inspiration for some cookies, a cake, or even, if you’re feeling bold, Chicken Shortcake!


Women’s History Month, Part 24: “Doris’s” Manuscript Cookbook

This week, I thought we’d look at a manuscript cookbook. At the moment, this particular item is considered unprocessed, but by the time this blog post is over, I’ll probably have done half of the work of describing the collection. So, there may even be a finding aid by the end of the day!

Officially, this manuscript cookbook doesn’t have a title yet. It’s owner/creator, as we can tell from the inscription at the front, was someone named “Doris.” The cookbook was a gift from her mother in 1925. However, we don’t have many other clues as to the identity of Doris. Which, of course, can be the case with manuscript cookbooks. But more on that in a moment.

Front cover of “Doris’s” manuscript cookbook, c.1925
Inside the front cover

One of the first things you might notice about this item is the cover. It’s not the original. Rather, a blank notebook (with nice marbled end papers) has been covered with what seems to be wallpaper. It was hand stitched in at the front and back, probably to protect from food debris.

The cookbook has an index of recipes, which is always a fun trick. One never knows how many pages you might need for recipes of a certain type, so there are often blank segments or spaces. Or recipes for like items don’t end up together, when more get tacked on to the end!

If you’ve spent anytime looking at handwritten recipe books, trends and recipe themes emerge: There is often a preponderance of cakes, cookies, puddings (or, “pudgings” as it appears here), and preserves.

Because some of the pages are already loose and I didn’t want to stress the binding by placing it flat on a scanner, I decided to photograph the pages in today’s post. So, apologies for the addition of fingers and in some cases, less than perfect quality.

Recipes for rhubarb conserve, plum conserve, and orange marmalade

Despite my blurry photo, conserves, it seems, are quite easy to make. Case in point:

Rhubarb Conserve

2 Qts cut up rhubard

1 Large Pineapple

2 oranges

2 lbs sugar

boil until thick

One of our only clues about Doris also comes from a folded up sheet of paper stuck inside the cookbook. On one page, there is a recipe for the every-popular moulded salmon or tuna salad. In addition, there are some recipes from a 1964 Randolph Macon Alumnae Association luncheon.

The cheese strata is attributed to Doris Rogers. While I don’t like to make assumptions, it’s possible this is the same owner of the cookbook. Although the cookbook does have a section of cheese recipes, it doesn’t contain a cheese strata (I was hoping to find a match!). Still, this could be a clue I’ll need to follow up on, if I can find some Randolph-Macon history!

After page 165, the rest of this notebook is blank, which also isn’t uncommon when it comes to manuscript receipt books. Sometimes people lose interest, sometimes they begin collecting recipes in another way, sometimes it gets passed on to someone else (who may or may not continue to add to it). It seems that this particular cookbook did get use–there are loose pages from lots of turning and there are definitely some stains suggesting it spent time open in an active kitchen.

The other reason I chose to highlight this item during my 2018 Women’s History Month series is to play against the posts I’ve already done this month. We started with Betty Crocker who, while not an actual person, is an icon. Last week, we looked at some women’s contributions to cocktail history, some of which were obvious, others a little less so. This week was an opportunity to point out that contributions to culinary history do not have to be identified, attributed, or famous. Rather, anyone can create a piece of culinary history that might just have a longer legacy that you expect. We have no reason to believe that Doris was keeping this cookbook for us to be able to share, but now, 93 years later, we have the option to make her recipes once again.

Women’s History Month, Part 23: Women & Cocktail Books (1893-1928)

This week, rather than profile a single woman, I pulled some of the earliest cocktail books/books with cocktail recipes that we have in our collection that were written by women. In one of these cases, we didn’t originally even know the author’s name, but all three of these books give us a little insight into women and cocktails before the end of Prohibition.

First up, it’s Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband’s Friends/by one who knows, published in 1893. We’re not sure who this woman–that it IS a woman–but the anonymity suggests it was likely. These days, however, the book is at the very least attributed to a woman, Mrs. Alexander Orr Bradley. So, we’ll run with it for now…

Mrs. Bradley’s book is relatively short, only covering some basic communal drinks (aka punches) and a few “well-knowns.” It’s only a couple of years after Harriet de Salis’ 1891 Drinks a la Mode, and it doesn’t have quite that variety, but drinks of course, were not Mrs. Bradley’s only goal. Hers was more a book on entertaining groups of men, and as a result, she relies more heavily on the classics or things easy to produce en masse, as it were. Still, it does have a fin-de-siécle (Or “turn of the century”) flair, as the half title page above suggests. “Fin-de-siécle” was also a term that referred the closing of the century in Victorian culture, a time in which the “New Woman” feminist movement emerged. This new feminism influence social, literary and cultural, and political history into the 20th century. Given the time period, we might wonder if there was a little of the “New Woman” in Mrs. Bradley, as she bravely entered the largely-male-dominated field of cocktails and boldly declared her audience of like-minded ladies.

In 1904, May E. Southworth complied a book called One Hundred & One Beverages. Our copy, below, is the 1906 revised edition. She collected popular cocktail and cocktail-adjacent recipes of the time, largely with an eye toward summer, though there are some hot drinks, too.

Compiled, of course, is a key word here. Southworth didn’t, in as far as we know, make up any of these drinks, but she did bring them to a new audience of readers and tasters. Many of her choices are drinks we don’t hear about today (the Beaufort or the Barbed Wire, for example), but if you ask me, some of them might just need a revival. Southworth is surprisingly brand-specific, even when talking about ginger ale, cider, or carbonated water, which isn’t something that was very common yet. Whether it’s commitment or actual corporate sponsorship, we can’t know for sure, but it was a growing practice in the cocktail and cookbook world.

Lastly, we’ll take a quick hop across the pond. Prohibition is one of my favorite periods in cocktail culture history. It didn’t do what it intended and it definitely had some unexpected consequences, including a lot of publishing about cocktails abroad. Mary Woodman’s 1928 Cocktails, Ices, Sundaes, Jellies & American Drinks: How to Make Them is quite an eclectic title. With the contents to match.

Diversity of cocktails was another consequence of Prohibition. After about the 1890s, cocktails may still be talked about in terms of classifications (cups, flips, fizzes, etc.), but they are also becoming individual and Woodman’s book gives us a laundry list of named drinks. In America, Prohibition was leading to cocktails that began to feature soda or juices or homemade syrups to cover up the taste of poor quality base spirits. Which we see in the punches or sugared drinks of the”American Drinks, Etc.” section. Overseas, where production was legal, spirits were being make into new combinations and concoctions like the “Coronation Cocktail” or the “Deep Sea Cocktail” (the latter of which, happily, does not contain seafood, which I half-expected). Woodman, though, ties all of this together into a sort of decadent volume reflecting cocktails and sweets of the time. You need syrups for cocktails, but you can also add them to ice cream. Some ices are a short trip to frappes or later frozen drinks. In other words, Woodman reminds us just how close dessert can be to a cocktail, if you need something sweet. Or sour. 🙂

Even if it wasn’t obvious, women were helping spread the word of cocktails from early on. They knew, as well as anyone, that cocktail were finding a place by the plate at a party or a quiet night at home, and they took on the challenge of incorporating them into their cookbook or tackling them on separately. And I know I can raise my glass to that. Cheers!

Women’s History Month, Part 22: Betty Crocker (1921-present)

For the start of Women’s History Month (or, as we call it on the Virginia Tech campus, Women’s Month), I thought we would, oddly enough, talk about the woman who didn’t exist: Betty Crocker. The idea of Betty Crocker was (and remains) influential. And yet, she doesn’t (and didn’t) exist as a person–Crocker is an identity and a brand. On the one hand, we could argue that perhaps a fictional identity isn’t the way to sell products or best way to represent women. On the other hand, the fact is, it worked. Really, really well. Which is why it seems fair to take a look at just what this character did for culinary history.

We’ve highlighted a couple of specific publications “by” Crocker in the past: Betty Crocker & Salads  and Betty Crocker & Outdoor Entertaining. This week, we’ll add some more to the mix. Special Collections houses 21 books and publications attributed to Betty Crocker, including my beloved Betty Crocker card libraries. If you add in books housed in the circulating collection, that total doubles. You can view a list of the publications online. And that barely scratches the surface of materials attributed to this identity and image. There are books, card libraries, pamphlets (we have those in some manuscript collections, too), flyers/single-page instruction sheets, individual recipes cards, advertisements, and more.

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So, who was Betty Crocker, then? The idea behind her creation in 1921 was to have a female persona/representation for Washburn Crosby (by the end of the decade, the company would merge with others to form General Mills). The company’s advertising department was all male, but their intended audience was, of course, women. They needed an image to sell that. However, this is not to say that there weren’t women involved in helping to build the persona. When “Betty Crocker” got a radio show in 1924, she was voiced by a home economist on staff, Blanche Ingersoll. The publications that began to flow out to the public written by Betty were really the work of Marjorie Child Husted and a team of home economists who created, tested, and marketed the recipes. Husted worked on getting the persona of Betty Crocker to engage with real people for items like “Let the Stars Show You How to Take a Trick a Day with Bisquick” from 1935. The first portrait of Betty Crocker appeared on materials in 1936, giving further credence to the identity.

During decades of change, Betty Crocker’s work was adapted to meet needs of women around the nation: Publications focused on how to stretch foods during the Great Depression and how to cook under rationing conditions in World War II. While all of these things could have also been provided by a single author, radio host, home economist, etc. (or a series of them over time), as we’ve seen with other companies, we might also consider there is something to be said for the consistent image that we’ve seen now for more than 90 years. The idea of Betty Crocker as a constant companion in the kitchen, one who rises to the challenges of changing times and even reflects back some of what is going on for women during that turmoil. (*see note at the end of the post)

If you’d like to know more about the history and evolution of Betty Crocker, there are some resources at your fingertips (and beyond). I discovered the MNopedia article on Crocker, which helped me write this post. There’s a chapter in The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media has a brief article that contains images of Crocker of time. And Laura Shapiro’s book, Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950’s America, includes at least part of a chapter on Betty Crocker.

*On a side note, I didn’t know much about Marjorie Child Husted before I started this post, though I had seen the name. It was interesting to learn that in addition to her work with this persona, “during the war, Husted worried that women were not being honored for their work in the home. She developed the Betty Crocker American Home Legion in 1944 to recognize women for their contributions. Husted championed the rights of women in the workplace, criticizing General Mills and other companies for discriminating against their female employees.” (http://www.mnopedia.org/person/betty-crocker) It seems that much of what she did was tied to Betty Crocker, which gives us another perspective on both Husted and what she intended Crocker to be.

Women’s History Month 2018

Women’s History Month is only a few days away and again this year, Special Collections and the University Libraries, in conjunction with some friends around campus, have some plans a-foot!

“Coeds: The History of Women Students at Virginia Tech” (sponsored by University Libraries and Virginia Tech Alumni Association). Virginia Tech first admitted women as students in 1921, but it was a long road to acceptance. Women had to create their own yearbook and unofficial sports teams in the beginning, and it took decades to achieve important student leadership positions in student organizations. Additional barriers prevented women students of color from reaching the same status as white women students for years and sometimes decades, as with the first Black women who didn’t matriculate until 1966, a full 45 years after the first white women and 13 years after the first Black man. This exhibit highlights the many women who overcame these obstacles in order to obtain a quality education and to open doors for others to join the Hokie Nation. Wednesday, February 14th through Friday, March 30th, Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm at the Alumni Museum in Holtzman Alumni Center.

“Courage, Resistance, and Leadership: Women in American History” (sponsored by Special Collections and University Libraries).  Special Collections and Newman Library will be collaborating on two exhibits in two spaces on the first floor of Newman Library. Special Collections will have items from our collections on display in the Reading Room, along with a digital slideshow of additional materials, trivia, and fun facts. In a nearby location on the first floor of the library, there will be a display of posters highlighting women represented in Special Collections holdings, as well as from the Women’s History Month website, which contextualize their roles in American history. Open Thursday, March 1-Monday, April 2, during Newman Library Hours. Posters will be on display on the first floor of Newman Library in the hallway across from classroom 120; the Special Collections reading room is on the first floor near the cafe. 

“Together | We: Troubling the Field in 20th Century Architecture” (sponsored by Special Collections and University Libraries). The Special Collections Department at Newman Library will have an interactive digital exhibition on display focused on materials from the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA).  The exhibit will highlight a number of women working primarily in the 20th century who were practitioners and often pioneers in the field. In addition to their architectural work they often had to overcome significant barriers to entry into the field, including access to the resources and networks of professional organizations. Several of these women became avid organizers and advocates, highlighting the contributions of other women to the profession and working to rectify the disparities in representation across daily practice and professional associations. Open Thursday, March 1-Monday, April 2, during Newman Library Hours. Display will be on the first floor of Newman Library in the hallway across from classroom 120.

For the sixth year running, our What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?! blog will continue its “Women’s History Month” series, highlighting the contributions of women to the culinary and agricultural fields! (You can view the posts to date online.)  New posts should also show up under this category as they are published. So far, we’re planning to look at Martha Lee Anderson (pamphlet author for Church & Dwight, aka Arm & Hammer), the legend of Betty Crocker, and a manuscript cookbook from an alumnae of Randolph Macon College from the 1920s.  And you may see some women’s history-themed posts on our Special Collections at Virginia Tech blog, as well as on our social media channels (@VT_SCUA on Twitter and through our contributions the University Libraries’ Instagram account, @vtlibraries).

We are also involved in a set of individual events in March:

  • Wikimedia Share-A-Thon” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Come help enhance the visual record ahead of the next two events in this Wikipedia intervention series (see below). The workshop will start with an introduction to Wikimedia Commons and then dive into sharing photos on the platform. As Wikimedia Commons only accepts freely licensed images, there will also be an overview of Creative Commons Licensing. Tuesday, March 20 from 2-3:30pm in the Newman Library Multipurpose Room. 
  • “FlowGround Session Wikipedia Editing Workshop” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Drop in for an informal session to chat with colleagues about intersections between fields that could generate a push to make Wikipedia articles a more complex—yet still accessible—resource for the general public. Set up an account, learn about editing, talk with people from a wide range of disciplines about intervening in social spaces, and just generally share ideas that transcend specific disciplines, technology, tools, and processes. Wednesday, March 21st from 11:30am-1pm in the Newman Library Athenaeum (room 124).
  • “Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Drop in any time to help edit Wikipedia—or just learn about the process and purpose. Tutorial sessions, online modules, assistance in setting up accounts, and other resources will be provided throughout the day for new editors or anyone who wants a refresher. Share ideas, update articles in your area of interest, work with others to enhance existing materials, and enjoy the experience of coming together to make a difference. Wednesday, March 28 from 11am-8pm in the Newman Library Multipurpose Room. 
  • 2018 International Archive of Women in Architecture Symposium(sponsored by College of Architecture and Urban Studies Diversity Committee and the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA)).  For centuries, women in architecture have been involved in pushing the boundaries of architecture and architectural practice. Whether as registered architects, members and leaders of architectural firms, academics and scholars, or in any of the less conventional capacities, women have helped transform the discipline of architecture and the related design fields shaping the built environment. Wednesday, March 28th: 7pm; Thursday, March 29th and Friday, March 30th: 9:30am-4:30pm

There will be about 45 events going on during March all over campus to celebrate women’s history month and we encourage you to check out the calendar (which will be posted online this week) and get involved where you can!

Folk, Historical, and Patent Medicine: Creating New Access Points to Materials

So, as is the way of things, your usual archivist/blogger Kira has found herself a new project. (I want to talk about it, but it means a more text-based blog post this week–apologies for that in advance.) Good news: It’s for the benefit of everyone and it will provide a new access point to some of our materials–I think! Additional good news: It only took a set amount of time to accomplish and didn’t interfere with all the other projects. Bad news: Well, there isn’t any!

One of my favorite items relating to patent medicine, an advertisement for labels to bottle medicines. Featured on the blog in February 2017: https://whatscookinvt.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/medicines-patent-practical/

To explain: For folks interested in the history of medicine, there’s a really great resource out there from the National Library of Medicine: the History of Medicine Finding Aids Consortium. This resource brings together finding aids from institutions around the country that deal with aspects of medicine and allied sciences. Some of our food and drink, local/regional history, and Civil War materials touch on some related aspects of medicine, including patent medicine, folk/traditional medicine, practitioners, disease history/research, and even military medicine history. Which, it turns out, does make us good candidates to contribute content to this resource!

To further explain: In a case of perfect timing, we may also have some faculty and classes interested in history of medicine materials. So, I’ve spent a few hours this week identifying collections that relate to aspects of medicine and started working on a way to bring those collections together virtually. Namely, through the use of a new subject heading for this purpose: “Folk, historical, and patent medicine.” This heading itself is being used as an umbrella term to gather collections (I realize it’s a pretty wide scope). So, in addition, we are including more specific, and authoritative, headings in these collections, too. These are formal headings created by the Library of Congress for cataloging books (and, in our case, we’re using them to describe manuscript collections). For this project, we’re using “Medicine” (for collections relating to the history of medicine, medical practices, doctors, and patients, and the like), “Patent medicine” (for collections relating to the history of propriety, patented, over the counter “cure,” often plant and/or alcohol based), and “Traditional medicine” (for collections relating to home remedies and folk medicine). Because we also have some Civil War collections dealing the the military perspective, you may also see “Medicine, Military–History” appearing in collections.

This image includes two pages from the Hertford Receipt Book (Ms2008-027), which contains home remedies for various medical issues. This item is available in digital form online: http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/HFDMss/Ms2008-027_HertfordReceiptBook.

Getting these collections into the NLM consortia will take a little time, but the good news is that you can already access these collection using these headings through Virginia Heritage, the statewide finding aid portal! There are 41 collections already tagged with these subjects and I’m working identifying some more. Then I’ll also be setting up a “Sources for Selected Topics” page on our food and drink LibGuide about home remedies, folk medicine, and patent medicines! We encourage you to take a look–and check back. You never know what might interest you!

title page for McArthur, Wirth & Co. Butchers' and Packers' Tools and Machinery catalog, 1900

How the Sausage Gets Made (Or at least, the tools you need to do it)

This week, I thought we’d take a look at something that relates to culinary history in a way that we haven’t talked about much before: food production and technology. More specifically, part of the process of how the literal sausage is made.

title page for McArthur, Wirth & Co. Butchers' and Packers' Tools and Machinery catalog, 1900
McArthur, Wirth & Co. Butchers’ and Packers’ Tools and Machinery catalog, 1900

Our collection of culinary materials contains more than a few catalogs for companies whose products support the creation, growth, transportation, packing, and consumption of food! This one comes from McArthur, Wirth & Co., who, at least in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, manufactured butchering supplies. “What kind?” you may ask. A wide variety.

The process of butchering animals involves a lot of steps and as even a few pages from this catalog suggest, there are a range of tools, supplies, and parts. It’s interesting to see how the company markets their product. They include a cabbage cutter with meat cutters, suggesting a butcher who also sells sauerkraut might make additional money. Personally, I’m intrigued by the addition of the “banana knife” and how it fits into the same category of food processing as butchery (there may be some application I don’t know about?). And a catalog like this can give us insight into things like the technology of transportation. The last page above includes different kinds of trucks and transport devices on wheels, but also offers skids. Anyone who is acquainted with parts of upstate New York, including the Syracuse area, can tell you what those winters are like. In February 1900, for example, wheels would not be the best way to move product.

One of the last pages of the catalog is actual recipes for sausages and meat products. (See, I said we were going to learn about how it gets made–all the way to a finished product!) It’s pretty detailed, so don’t say I didn’t warn you if you read on…

We have catalogs from other butcher suppliers, as well as confectionery, dairy, farm, and bakery suppliers, just to name a few. We’ll look at some more in the future, since these tools place such an important role in how raw materials (animals, vegetables, and minerals) become the foods we know and love.