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Rare Book and Special Collections Division



arrow graphicThe Domestic Sphere
Children's Literature
Advice Books
Finding Rare Children's Books
Religion and Spirituality
Reform Efforts
Women in Popular Culture
Collections Formed by Women
Literary Works



The Domestic Sphere

Your sex requires the utmost circumspection; what among men is reputed a venial fault, is an absolute crime with us.
Advice from a Lady of Quality to her Children (Newbury-Port: John Mycall, 1789 Juv), 175.

Today we are shocked both by the double standard described above and by its general acceptance. Women's limited role in the early days of the country is often described, encouraged, and reinforced in the literature of the time. The many early imprints written for and by American women held in the rare book collections offer a contemporary view of the images of women, an American woman's image of herself, and a look at how these changed over time.

Early works on women's role in society are classified in HQ1201 throughout the special collections (see General Collections for an overview of call numbers). These include the first American printings of popular foreign titles like M. Antoine Léonard Thomas's Essay on the Character, Manners, and Genius of Women in Different Ages (Philadelphia: Robert Aitken, 1774; HQ1201.T5 Am Imp) and Thomas Gisborne's An Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex (Philadelphia: James Humphrey1798; HQ1201.G6 1798 Carson) . Pierre Joseph Boudier de Villemert's The Ladies Friend (Philadelphia: John Dunlap, 1771; HQ1201 .B74 1771 Am Imp) encourages women to study the arts, literature, and history, and The Lady's Pocket Library (Philadelphia: Mathew Carey, 1792; HQ1201.L22 1792 Am Imp) is a compilation of advice to young ladies on friendship, love, and marriage.

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American Cookery. Amelia Simmons. Hartford, Connecticut, 1796. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

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Amelia Simmons's American Cookery (Hartford: Hudson & Goodwin, 1796; TX703.S5 1796 Am Imp) is the first cookbook written by an American and published in the United States. Numerous recipes adapting traditional dishes by substituting native American ingredients like corn meal and squash are printed here for the first time, including “Indian Slapjack,” “Johny Cake,” and “Pompkin Pudding.”

More often, American households relied on local reproduction of popular English works such as the first American printings of Susannah Carter's The Frugal Housewife, or, Complete Woman Cook (Boston, 1772; TX705.C32 Am Imp) and Richard Briggs's The New Art of Cookery . . . being a Complete Guide to all Housekeepers (Philadelphia, 1792; TX703.B7 Bitting) .

Early manuscript recipe books written by women include Mary Coates's Book (RS125.C55 1740 Carson) , a book of home remedies and cookery, and several eighteenth-century cookbooks in the Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection. Pre-1801 works on cooking are found at classifications TX703 and TX715. Recipes and household hints sometimes accompany tips on kitchen gardening in almanacs, as exemplified by Caroline Gilman's Lady's Annual Register and Housewife's Memorandum-Book (Boston, 1838-43; AY201.B7 L333 Am Almanac) .

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