Everything – even voting – is better with food, according to the Washington Women’s Cook Book.

With publication of this cookbook in 1909, the Washington Equal Suffrage Association followed in the footsteps of a handful of other suffrage cookbooks; the first was the Woman’s Suffrage Cook Book, published in 1886 by the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association. They in turn were imitating charity cookbooks published after the Civil War.

Suffrage cookbooks served a number of purposes. In addition to plumping up suffrage coffers, they also helped spread the word about their cause. A third purpose was to allay concerns: giving females the vote would not bring about the collapse of hearth and home. Vote, bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan? You bet  – it’s all in a day’s work of complementary tasks:
    What is politics? Why, it’s housekeeping on a big scale. The government is in a muddle, because it has been trying to do the housekeeping without the women.
    ~Washington Women’s Cook Book, p. 41

Reicpes in the Washington Women’s Cook Book run the gamut from simple to challenging. On one end of the easy/difficult spectrum:
                                                            To Boil Water Without Burning.
To boil water without burning is a clever thing to do. Water to be palatable and healthy should only just come to a boil; that is, to the boiling point, then set aside, where it can be kept at this point until wanted for use. Water that is kept boiling soon losses [sic] its best flavor in the evaporation, and this leaves the old burnt material in the teakettle, and such water is not fit to drink.
    Mrs. Jennie Jewett, White Salmon.
    ~Washington Women’s Cook Book, p. 186

Looking for something a bit more flavorful, I made the following for my daughter’s grad school voice recital reception last spring. We had several treats planned, but I still needed something sweet that was also gluten-free. Then I remembered seeing this recipe for a traditional German cookie. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up – a recipe from an old suffrage cookbook, gluten-free, and German. (The German part was a shout-out to my heritage and to another daughter, who was then having a grand time studying in Münster.)

                                                            Zimmersterne (Cinnamon Stars)
Whites of two large eggs, one-half pound of powdered sugar, one-half pound of unblanched almonds, chopped very fine or ground, one spoonful of cinnamon, grated rind of half a lemon. Beat the eggs to a stiff froth. Stir eggs and sugar together for fifteen minutes. Add almonds and small pinch of baking powder. Roll out about one-half inch thick. Cut in stars or small fancy shapes.
     ~Washington Women’s Cook Book, p. 172

Also factoring into my decision to try the recipe – it didn’t look too hard. I love to bake, but time was growing short and (more to the point), I don’t think I’ll ever be a contestant on The Great American Baking Show.

To save time, I bought Bob’s Red Mill Super-Fine Almond Flour instead of grinding my own. It also meant I couldn’t over-process the almonds and end up with almond butter.

At some point, I noticed a shortcoming in the instructions – where’s the temp and the baking time? I know next to nothing about wood-burning stoves, but imagine there was some difficulty in standardizing temps back in the day. But still.

Thankfully, here in the twenty-first century, we have the Internets to turn to, so I thought the matter would soon be settled. Not exactly. I found Zimmersterne recipes calling for 300, 325, and 375 degrees. Baking times ranged from 6-8 minutes to 12-15 and even 20-25 minutes. AACK. I am such a rule-follower with recipes – at least the first time I try something. This lack of clarity unnerved me, but I pressed on anyway.

The dough is quite sticky and should definitely be chilled before rolling. As one recipe advised, put it in the fridge and then, “Sit down, relax and have a cup of tea.” Good advice, and not just when baking, wouldn’t you say? Other helpful suggestions: sprinkling powdered sugar to help minimize sticking and rolling between parchment paper.
I liked the online recipes’ direction regarding using a little reserved meringue to glaze it with, so that’s what I did. I also stuck the odds and ends into the freezer to rechill between batches.

Unfortunately, what I don’t recall now is how long I baked them. I think I baked them at 325 and for 12-15-ish minutes, but please don’t quote me on that. Here are the main recipes I consulted at the time: BBC Good Food, Food.com, and All Recipes.
The cookies were a hit at the reception, I have to say. I haven’t made them since, but I’m getting the urge to as I write this. They would make a yummy Valentine’s Day treat. Let me know if you try either the Zimmersterne or the boiled water recipe, won’t you?
[Sources: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/2008/0707/p17s01-lign.html; http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/07/18/156983942/long-before-social-networking-community-cookbooks-ruled-the-stove; http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/11/05/454246666/how-suffragists-used-cookbooks-as-a-recipe-for-subversion]
When someone mentions a 19th or 20th century suffragist, do you conjure up an image something like this? Stuffy maiden aunts with a bun of gray hair – no ears showing –  who had sworn a solemn oath* to never smile or – gasp – laugh until women got the vote.

Think of the pictures you’ve seen of the venerable and supreme suffrage leader, Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906). She starting campaigning for suffrage in her early 30s and kept it up for more than half a century -- and still didn't get to see success in her lifetime. She famously said "failure is impossible," but, yikes, what a long slog.
Susan B. Anthony, ca. 1900. Library of Congress: https://lccn.loc.gov/2004671946
I suspect a photo of a smiling SBA is about as likely to surface as a bottle of hooch at a 19th century temperance meeting. Other suffragists don’t exactly appear to be a laugh a minute, either. Of course, I realize this quirk isn’t attributable to suffrage, but rather the photography practices of the day.** Another contributing factor – it seems that many of the most familiar photos show leaders in their later years, further lending a serious note, in my opinion. (I’m not exactly a young pup, so I think I can safely say that.)

Anyway, I believe these photos and the very serious cause suffragists fought for could cause reasonable people to conclude that humor was perennially absent. But then along comes Alice Duer Miller to destroy that stereotype of dour suffragists. 

The multi-talented Duer Miller wrote verse for the New York Tribune in a column called Are Women People? Many of these columns were reprinted in her 1915 book with the same title.
Alice Duer Miller, ca. 1920. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAlice-Duer-Miller.jpg (public domain photo)
New York: George H. Doran Company. 1915 (public domain). The book is subtitled "A Book of Rhymes for Suffrage Times."
It took me forever to write this short blog post because, I'll admit, I went all fan-girl when I discovered Duer Miller and her pro-suffrage/feminist poetry. I definitely kept going down one rabbit hole or another in search of more info.

Since this is National Poetry Month, I’ll aim to share more of her verse and her life in the next few weeks. (I'm really looking forward to Poem in Your Pocket Day -- April 21.) Here are a couple of selections from Are Women People? to get things rolling.
This little ditty is from pages 34-35. See *** below to find out why she's apologizing to a fellow poet.
So, am I the only one who is captivated by Duer Miller’s writing? Are you surprised that humor had a place in the suffrage movement?

    *Many early suffragists, including Susan B. Anthony, were Quakers, and Quakers were opposed to oath-swearing, so maybe they came up with a clever alternative?
**The lack of smiling faces old photographs isn't merely because of lengthy exposure requirements. Check out this Smithsonian video and this Guardian article for some context.
                ***Often referred to as the “The Hoosier Poet” or the “The Children’s Poet,” James Whitcomb Riley was famous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here Duer Miller is riffing on his poem, A Life-Lesson, which begins with these lines:

There! little girl; don't cry!
They have broken your doll, I know …

Running for president in 1916: Democrat and incumbent Woodrow Wilson vs. Charles Evans Hughes, former Supreme Court justice and Republican.
Harris & Ewing, Copyright Claimant. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2012647854. Harris & Ewing, Copyright Claimant. Charles E. Hughes, Republican candidate for president. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2012646826.
Who could vote in 1916? White males of all sorts -- requirements that they had to be property owners had long been banished. Males of color? Supposedly they could vote. The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, said so, after all. However, decades later, true suffrage remained a chimera for most non-whites.

And what of women? Some could legally vote, but most could not. It came down to geography. I got to thinking about this the day of the Illinois primary a few weeks ago. M
y eldest daughter in Chicago faced a daunting to-do list, including driving seven hours for an audition, yet she was adamant about voting before her trip. Inspired, I decided to do some time travel and examine the question based on her location, that of my other two-college-age daughters (Minnesota and Iowa), and mine (South Dakota).

In 1916, the 19th Amendment's guarantee of suffrage for women was still four years away. Both figuratively and literally, a lot of bloodshed was yet to come in suffrage skirmishes and on World War I battlefields. (The war played a significant role in advancing woman suffrage, as it was typically called.) Nevertheless, by 1916, several western states and one state east of the Mississippi allowed women to vote -- specifically, the right to vote for president, as women in some states had partial suffrage rights.

A century ago, suffragists couldn’t get behind Wilson's reelection campaign. His stance on woman suffrage was -- how shall I describe it? -- fluid. His suffrage phases encompassed the following (please permit me some leeway with the paraphrasing):
  • Heck no. Women don’t need no stinking vote.
  • I haven’t given it much thought; it’s not the federal government’s decision to make, but I reckon it’s okay if a state wants to allow it.
  • Cripes, what is it with these women traipsing outside the White House and nattering on about suffrage? Arrest them!
  • Rah! Rah! Votes for women! Congress, get your collective butts in gear NOW. Listen up -- I say it's “vitally essential” that we pass a suffrage amendment.
Suffragists demonstrating against Woodrow Wilson, Chicago 1916. National Woman's Party Records, Library of Congress; http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mnwp.276016
[What’s that, you ask? Did Wilson experience a true conversion or simply bow to political expediency? Good question.]

Anyway, in 1916, President Wilson was still firmly outside of the pro-suffrage amendment camp as he campaigned for re-election. The official party platform purported to support woman suffrage, as long as it happened on a state-by-state basis. The Republican platform said the same, albeit in more flowery language.

All I can say is that it’s a good thing women didn’t wait around for state-by-state suffrage, or some of us might still be disenfranchised today. In 1916, the quest for woman suffrage looked a lot like the proverbial tortoise and hare race – but stuck at the part where the tortoise looked to be the likely loser. By then, the battle for the ballot box was nigh on 70 years old.

The tortoises/suffragists seemed to get a boost when candidate Evans ventured beyond the official party platform and backed a federal amendment: “I think it to be most desirable that the question of woman suffrage should be settled promptly … for the entire country. My view is that the proposed amendment should be submitted and ratified and the subject removed from political discussion.” (From The New York Times, August 2, 1916.)
Bain News Service, Publisher. Woman's Train. [1916]. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ggb2005022975.
Charles Evans Hughes – it sounds downright presidential, doesn’t it? Alack and alas … (although truth be told, I don’t know much about Hughes beyond what I’ve told you here).

Wilson’s campaign slogan was “He kept us out of war” (phrased, as you notice, in the past tense, and one that remained true only until April 1917). Wilson prevailed in the general election – but barely –  with a margin of less than 600,000 in the popular vote and just 23 in the Electoral College (277 to 254).

To get back to my original question: My 21-year-old daughters and I, in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, would have been voiceless on November 7, 1916. I suppose we’d have had to hope that my husband/their dad voted as we would have. One vote on behalf of four of us -- and no room for differing opinions, apparently.

My eldest, in Illinois, would have had the rare honor of voting. That's because in 1913, Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi to allow women to vote for presidential electors.

Allow me a short digression (again). Ironically, Illinois women could vote for president in 1916 but weren’t allowed to vote for governor and some other elected offices. And, to minimize the risk of cooties, they had to use separate ballots and ballot boxes, according to author and historian Mark Sorensen. Okay, I made up the part about cooties, but I didn’t make up the part about separate ballot boxes. (Sorensen’s brief history of woman suffrage in Illinois makes for good reading.)

So, when could women vote in your home state, territory, or country? Check out this map for further info for the U.S. And how would you have voted 100 years ago?