Women’s History Month, Part 20: Ellen H. (Henrietta) Swallow Richards (1842-1911)

Ellen Henrietta Swallow (later Richards) was born in 1842. In 1870, she graduated from Vassar College with a Bachelors of Science–she focused her studies largely in astronomy. In 1871, far from completed with her own education, she applied to, and was accepted, to MIT. She was the first woman to attend the school, graduating from there with a second Bachelors of Science, this time in Chemistry. The same year, she received a Master of Arts from Vassar.  In 1875, she married Robert Richards, a professor. From 1873 to 1884, she taught MIT and worked as an assistant to professors and researchers, without a title for many of those first years. She was the driving force behind development of the “Women’s Laboratory,” which, in turn, expanded the education opportunities in the sciences for women at MIT until it closed and the school began offering regular undergraduate opportunities for women. During this time, she also began working for the Board of Health in Massachusetts (which would lead to some of her later efforts). Much of her work efforts overlapped: she taught at MIT while working for the Board of Health, and for about a decade in there, also worked for Manufacturers Mutual Fire Insurance Co., and would later consult for companies, too. The history of her employment at MIT is complex, but between 1873 and 1911, she taught in chemistry, biology, and mineralogy, at the very least. We know that in 1879, she was an assistant professor in chemical analysis, industrial chemistry, mineralogy, and applied biology, but may not have been receiving a salary. By 1884, she was known as an instructor in sanitary chemistry. Shortly before she died, in 1910, Smith College presented her with an honorary degree Doctor of Science in light of her life-long efforts. She passed away in 1911, leaving a legacy of education, public health, and as a pioneer for women in science.

Some of her work in chemistry focused on issues of public health and other parts on issues of food and its chemistry. While she isn’t the traditional culinary history writer we often talk about on the blog, her contributions to aspects of the field, and related ones, were ground-breaking. In fact, there wasn’t much of the traditional about Ellen Richards, which is probably a wonderful thing for both her students and those that followed her. Her work and some of her 15 books would feed into the development household management and domestic science/education in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Which is probably an indication that we should look at some examples!

The work of hers that we’ve actually talked about before is The Dietary Computer, Explanatory Pamphlet; the Pamphlet Containing Tables of Food Composition, Lists of Prices, Weights, and Measures, Selected Recipes for the Slips, Directions for using the Same. I won’t rewrite the post, but if you haven’t followed us since 2012, or if you’ve forgotten, it’s well worth a look.

Her work often appeared within the books of others, since her research led to essays, charts, and even the hand calculated and hand drawn tables included in The Science of Nutrition from 1896:

One of the stand-outs for me is the way in which Richards brought chemistry into the home, using her books as a way to education women who may not have the opportunities to study in a formal setting. She reinforced the importance of knowledge for women and the benefits of understand what she refers to–quite perfectly, I think–as the “Chemistry of Common Life.” The Chemistry of Cooking and Cleaning: A Manual for Housekeepers covers aspects of food science, the chemistry behind cooking techniques and ingredients, the chemistry and public heath values of cleanliness, and even contains research into the addition or adulteration of cleaning products (see page 113 below)!

Richards was an extremely prolific author and co-author for many years. Here in Special Collections five of her books (titles in bold below) and there are another two available through the University Libraries. Many of her works went through multiple editions, too! In addition to the titles we have, she wrote on other aspects of chemistry, food cost studies, public health, education in schools, and contributed to other pamphlets from corporations.

  • The Rumford Kitchen: The Exhibit of The New England Kitchen at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 (included content by Richards)
  • Atkinson, Edward. The Science of Nutrition. Treatise upon the Science of Nutrition…The Aladdin Oven, invented by Edward Atkinson. What It Is. What It Does. How It Does It. Dietaries Carefully Computed, under the Direction of Mrs. Ellen H. Richards. Tests of the Slow Methods of Cooking in the Aladdin Oven, by Mrs. Mary H. Abel and Miss Maria Daniell, with Instructions and Recipes. Nutritive Values of Food Materials,
    Collated from the Writings of Prof. W. O. Atwater. Appendix: Letters and Reports
    , 1896 (available online)
  • The Dietary Computer, Explanatory Pamphlet; the Pamphlet Containing Tables of Food Composition, Lists of Prices, Weights, and Measures, Selected Recipes for the Slips, Directions for using the Same, 1902 (With Louise Harding Williams)
  • First Lessons in Food and Diet, c.1904
  • The Chemistry of Cooking and Cleaning: A Manual for Housekeepers, 1907 (available online)
  • The Cost of Cleanness, 1908
  • The Art of Living Right, 1915

On a citation note, I’m indebted to two really great (and compact) biographies of Richards for the information I’m sharing this week, one from the MIT Libraries and the other from the American Chemical Society.  The MIT site also includes the link to the digitized version of Richards’ thesis for her Chemistry degree! I recommend both, since what I’ve presented here is an even shorter version.

Women’s History Month, Part 18: Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall (1805-1878)

In the middle of last year, we acquired a book called The Housekeeper’s Book, published in 1837. [Side note: the full title is The Housekeeper’s book : comprising advice on the conduct of household affairs in general ; and particular directions for the preservation of furniture, bedding, etc. ; and for the laying in and preserving of provisions, with a complete collection of receipts for economical domestic cookery, the whole carefully prepared for the use of American housekeepers and the title in our catalog is The Housekeeper’s book:…with a complete collection of receipts for economical domestic cookery, the whole carefully prepared for the use of American housekeepers. So, actually finding this volume and information about it can be a bit tricky, depending on how it’s referenced.] At the time, I sent it on to cataloging, without too much thought. In October of 2016, it popped up on my radar in conjunction with an instruction session I was putting together on antebellum women & cookery. This time, the “By a lady” on the title page caught my attention and, of course, required investigation. When I found out, I wanted to post about it right away, but decided it would be better saved for Women’s History Month, because this was one interesting lady (more on her in a moment–I have to build some suspense)!

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The Housekeeper’s Guide was, as far as I can tell, was only published in two editions: one in 1837 and another in 1838. These days, about 24 libraries or so have print copies on their shelves (but it has also been digitized here). It is very much what it sounds like from its extensive subtitle–a household management guide and cookbook. From the preface:

The plan of the present work is so fully set forth in the title page that little is left to be said by the author in any way of preface. It may, however, be proper to remark, that the work has been founded on the results of actual experience, and is intended for every day use; that the receipts, directions, and general advice have all been prepared with strict view to utility, and true economy; and that nothing has been omitted which the author deemed subservient to the general design–the promotion of domestic happiness by attention to the constantly recurring and inevitable duties of good housekeeping.

Intended for middle- and upper-class ladies, and, in some ways, probably for those in their employ, the book has a natural progression: household duties, managing servants, cooking techniques, LOTS of recipes (including homemade cordials and cooking for invalids), flowers, preservation of furnishings, washing, and the ever-common miscellany. A bit out of place, though, it ends with directions for “jointing, trussing, and carving” (with intriguing instructions like “Cod’s Head” and “Half a Calf’s Head.” I guess that gets to the economy aspect of cooking–use everything!

So, just who was the lady behind this semi-obscure household guide that didn’t see the success or continued reprinting of some other similar books of the time? Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall. With a name that long, I felt there had to be story here and I wasn’t wrong. First off, The Housekeeper’s Book was never published under her actual name and it was her only domestic-related book…sort of.

She published her other works as Frances H. Green, since she didn’t marry Wiliam C. McDougall until 1860 and most of her writing was done prior to that. But we’re jumping ahead! Frances Harriet Whipple was born in Rhode Island in 1805. By the time she was in her 20s, she was publishing poetry and began her first brief editorial efforts (the Original), which include her own short writings. By 1830, her writing shifted to reformation efforts, as over her life, McDougall would became an activist for/supporter of temperance, labor, abolition, and spiritualism. Her works would be published in newspapers, serials, books, and other projects edited mostly by others, but also by herself.

In 1842, she married her first husband, an artist named Charles Green. After their divorce in 1847, she developed an interest in spiritualism and over the next decade or so, she would write for spiritualism publications and individual tracts. She was also an avid botanist and botany teacher, publishing an illustrated text, The Primary Class-Book of Botany in 1856, which was later expanded and republished with a co-author years later. Around 1860, she moved to California where she met and married William C. McDougall, a California assemblyman-turned-miner and the brother of the state’s second governor, John McDougall. The two remained married until her death in 1878.

Interestingly, there is a published biography of McDougall (O’Dowd, Sarah C. A Rhode Island Original: Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall. University Press of New England. 2004.) and she does have a Wikipedia page, but among the most helpful of resources was a brief biography of her on the web, created by a faculty member at the Community College of Rhode Island (which is where I got most of my information above!)

Although–or perhaps because–her works are so varied, it’s hard to come up with a single bibliography.  Her major works include:

  • The Housekeeper’s Book (1838)
  • Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge (1838)
  • Elleanor’s Second Book (1842), both books were the social conditions of African-Americans in the 19th century
  • Might and Right (1844), in defense of the suffrage movement and political upheavals in Rhode Island
  • The Primary Class-Book of Botany (1856)
  • Shahmah in Pursuit of Freedom: or, The Branded Hand (1858), was an attack on slavery through the narrative of a foreign prince from African visiting the United States
  • Beyond the Veil (1878), published posthumously

Her list of individually published poems, articles, tracts, and other pieces is, of course, much longer, as is her list of editorial roles over the years. While she may not have been particularly influential in the culinary world, it’s clear her influence was felt in other places. And her fascinating life story was one I simply had to share!

Women’s History Month, Part 17: Susannah Carter (fl.1765)

Since there are FIVE Thursdays in March this year, you’re getting a bonus gift: Another women’s history month profile!

We only have one book at the University Libraries by Susannah Carter, The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook: Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands, with Cleanliness, Decency, and Elegance, is Explained in Five Hundred Approved Receipts…to Which are Added, Various Bills of Fare, and a Proper Arrangement of Dinners, Two Courses, for Every Month of the Year.  Of course, there’s a good reason we only have one book–it’s the only one she wrote…sort of. On the surface, it’s not as clear as a good broth. The thing about The Frugal Housewife is that is appeared on both sides of the pond with variant titles, most of which have either the same subtitle, or at least part of the same subtitle. Yes, it’s bit confusing, but there’s quite a story to come. But first, the book!!

Oh, and apologies for the use of pictures that includes weights this week. Our 1802 text block is wonderful condition. It was rebound, probably some time in the last 75 years. This will help to continue to preserve the text, but it’s also a very tight binding and using a flat surface (aka a scanner) would be detrimental to the book. I had to get creative.

So, back to the story of this book’s many titles. For example, you might also see The Universal Housewife: or, Complete New Book of Cookery. Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands, with Cleanliness, Decency, and Elegance, is Explained in Five Hundred Approved New Receipts, … Together with the Best Methods of Potting, Collaring, Preserving, Drying, Candying, and Pickling. To which are Prefixed, Various Bills of Fare, for Dinners and Suppers in Every Month of the Year; and a Copious Index to the Whole (1770), which was the first version of the book. Or, there’s The Experienced Cook, and Housekeeper’s Guide. Giving the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands, with Cleanliness, Decency, and Elegance, is Explained in Five Hundred Approved New Receipts. With the Best Methods of Potting, Collaring, Preserving, Drying, Candying, Pickling, Making English Wines, and Distilling of Simples, with Twelve New Prints for the Arrangement of Dinners of Two Courses, for Every Month of the Year, etc. (1850).

Let’s take a step back for a moment. The first edition of The Universal Housewife probably appeared around 1765 in London and Dublin. The first appearance of the text in America was in Boston in 1772. This early colonial version included engraving by Paul Revere (how cool is that??). Variations on The Frugal Housewife title began as early as 1772. The only versions of The Experienced Cook and Housekeeper’s Guide variants appear to have been published in 1850. While we know nothing about the life of Susannah Carter, she was probably deceased by then. Assuming that she was at least 20 when the first edition came out in 1765, in 1850, she would have been 105 years old. These variants were not always the same book, as some elements were improved upon or edited for different versions. The year after our 1802, another edition was published in America that contains a whole new appendix of receipts specifically for the “American mode of cooking” (both processes and ingredients). Why all the changes? That’s a hard question to answer, but there were probably a lot of factors. Many hands go into writing, editing, printing, and publishing a volume like this, and many people might have been inclined to take liberties with a text. It may have been an attempt to appeal to different audiences, too.

There’s another reason we’re looking at Susannah Carter’s book this week, too. And it has a lot to do with some of the previous posts in this series. The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook was extremely influential in America. Remember Amelia Simmons and American Cookery, or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards, and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes, from the Imperial Plum to Plain Cake: Adapted to this Country, and All Grades of Life (1796)? Part of that title might look familiar now. As it turns out, entire passages of American Cookery came from The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook. (Copyright and publishing was a different business in the late 18th century!) The 1803 appendix to the American edition of The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook that I mentioned? That same appendix appears in an 1805 edition of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery. And it is probably not original to Carter. It appears to have been translated from a Swedish text called Rural Oeconomy. And, to further complicate things, as you may recall, in 1829, Lydia Maria Child authored a cookbook called The Frugal Housewife. Child’s book was published in different editions America and the UK, which, as you might expect, let to even more confusion. In 1832, under pressure, she changed the title to The American Frugal Housewife (though the old title didn’t disappear abroad until after 1834). This book has quite a history to it, right?

You can view the 1803 American edition of The Frugal Housewife at the Michigan State University Libraries’ Feeding America project, complete with the Swedish translated appendix. You can also see an 1823 London edition through the Internet Archive.

We’ll be back with another post next week. In the meantime, though, remember to make your gravies and sauces a priority. They are, after all,the “chief excellence of all Cookery!”