The Little Housekeepers

This week, we’re delving back into the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Collection. The Little Housekeepers and Other Stores, Illustrated, was published in 1886. We purchased it with funds from the Hertzler Endowment in May of this year. And, while it may not seem like it on the surface, this book is definitely at home on our shelves!

We’ve looked at “how-to” cookbooks for children (most often girls) before. This book feels more like a version of a household management guide for little girls, a sort of “junior” version of something like The American Woman’s Home: Or, Principles of Domestic Science… from the 1860s. It uses stories and poems to teach young girls about a variety of domestic activities: cooking, laundry, food shopping, sewing, and raising children. The book also  features a number of color illustrations, as well as many smaller black and white ones, all of which make the tasks in them look somewhat glamorous and exciting.

The idea that books for children can help groom them for expected roles certainly wasn’t new in the 1880s. Etiquette books for people of all ages had been around much longer. And we can still find them today. However, this publication takes a clever path and combines education with amusement, incorporating activities young girls would witness everyday and adding elements of childhood (games, dolls, and other toys). We’ve seen this in other books in the Hertzler Collection, too, and it’s a tactic that would likely worked very well! The Little Housekeepers and Other Stories, in any case, is a great example of the space where children’s literature, cooking, and childhood collide, which is one of many reasons it matters to us.

The Little Housekeeper and Other Stories is in fragile shape, but you’re still welcome to come by and see it. After all, you’ll only find about 10 copies of the 1886 edition in academic/public libraries and even fewer of the c.1900 edition. (Lucky for you, TWO of those libraries are in Virginia!)

 

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