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Cookbook for a Cause

Dec 2, 2009

Student Ann Mazzaferro Studies Cookbook Tied to Women's Suffrage

The history of women's rights in America has long been a subject that has fascinated Ann Mazzaferro '10 (English). Many of her childhood heroes came from the suffrage movement, including Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone and Carrie Chapman Catt.  

Last year, Ann took the Global History of Food class, and Professor Ken Albala presented students with the option of researching a historic cookbook for their final project. Ann happened to learn of "The Woman Suffrage Cookbook of 1886," which was published by the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association as a fundraiser for their cause.  

"The more I examined the document, the more astonished I became at the women who contributed to it," said Ann, "and the many levels at which the text could be dissected."

Ann was surprised by the lack of scholarly analysis surrounding the cookbook, and decided to pursue the research herself. A Pacific Fund grant allowed her to travel to Boston for 10 days in August 2009 for the purpose of researching this cookbook at the Schlessinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute, located on Harvard's campus. She also visited the Massachusetts Historical Society.  

"The ten days I spent there were enormously successful and resulted in findings that are particularly meaningful to my research," said Ann.  "It has been the experience of a lifetime, and it would not have been possible without the Pacific Fund grant."

Ann is preparing an article based on her research and hopes to submit it for publication in a scholarly journal in the spring of 2010.  On November 18, she presented her findings to members of the Pacific Fund Grant committee, faculty members and students, and she was pleased with the support and positive feedback from those who attended.

"One of the things that strikes me the most about this cookbook is how poignantly the frustrations and hopes of these extraordinary women come across in the recipes they submitted," said Ann.  "You have women who were military strategists, doctors, lawyers, writers—all manner of professions—and they had to find a way to make what they were selling (women's suffrage) more palatable to the average, more conservative housewife."  

"In a way, the cookbook functions as a cover for their message.  It might be difficult to convince a family to donate a dollar to the suffrage cause, but it's far easier to convince them to buy something as domestic as a cookbook.  This subversive undertone was something that these women were acutely aware of, and those places where you can read between the lines and see their frustrated ambitions strike me as incredibly compelling."

About Pacific Fund Grants

Pacific Fund grants, such as the one Ann received to travel to Boston, are awarded to promote scholarship and research, leadership and experiential learning, among other goals. Pacific Fund grants for students and faculty in the College of the Pacific are awarded three times a year: fall, winter and spring. Applications must be submitted to Edie Sparks, Senior Associate Dean, the last Friday in September, February and May. Contact the Dean's office at WPC111 to receive the application.

Schlessinger Banner

On Ann's last day at Harvard's Schlessinger Library this banner was hanging, creating a fitting end to her research trip. The banner reads "Celebrating Votes for Women! August 26, 1920," which is the day the 19th Amendment to the Constitution passed, giving American women the right to vote.

Massachusetts Historical Society

Ann Mazzaferro at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

No. 3 Park Street in Boston

No. 3 Park Street in Boston is the location where the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, which produced the cookbook, held their meetings. Ann felt moved to stand where so many women she respected and admired had stood before.

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