Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820. This year-long blog celebrates not only her 200th birthday,
but also her work, life, and the progress toward universal woman's suffrage as well as the 100th anniversary
of the year-long effort to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.

During this year I will be adding stories from my imagined kitchen conversations with Susan B. Anthony and recipes from her era.
I am beginning this week because on June 4, 1919, women were one step closer to getting the vote when the United States Congress
passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Just over a year later, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify,
thus achieving passage by the required three-fourths of the nation's then 48 states states.
By 1984 all of the states that had been in the union at the time had finally ratified the amendment.

As essays are added, I'll mark them as "POSTED" on this Overview page and provide a link through for the stories and recipes of this year of celebration.

RECIPE for Susan B. Anthony's favorite kind of Old Fashioned Sponge Cake is at the bottom of this post. Scroll down to find the easy-to-make recipe.

Monday, May 13, 2019

1854 Spending Time with Lucretia Mott and Healthy Eating

Sewing was the task of my day. I opened my box of fabric scraps with thoughts of organizing them for making quilt tops. It was a long overdue task. I had years’ worth.  I scattered the pieces across my grandmother’s oak table, beguiled with memories of the clothing made, curtains sewn up, costumes designed. 

To say that I was startled to hear the familiar voice when food wasn’t cooking is an understatement.

Oh! I love all these colors. I was never much of a seamstress.  Of course I sewed and helped Mrs. Stanton with her handwork.  With seven children she and her dressmaker were busy.  Like any good homemaker, Mrs. Stanton kept her own supply of material left from those creations just in case the dress, or shirt, needed mending or making over to wear for another year.

Did you have to do that much?

Money was always tight for all among us. Clothing was a topic of our letters and conversations. And one of my favorite letters that dear Lucretia Mott sent to Mrs. Stanton was in thanks for a special birthday gift.

What was it?  Did she make her an outfit?

Oh my, no.  Mrs. Mott was a Quaker and wore plain clothing. Yet, she took great joy in color. So when Mrs. Stanton sent her scraps her pleasure abounded from the page. She wrote: “I opened the bag & enjoyed looking over each piece, opening each pinned up bundle, amazed that thou had collected so much--& bore my carpet rag mania in mind—Part of the glowing colors already I one ball & a little leisure of each day cutting others in strips. I hope thou has reserved enough to mend thy daughter’s torn dresses at boarding school – Thy kind remembrance in this way has my hearty thanks, & I am trying to thing of something when the good bag is returned to fill it withal.”

Oh that’s marvelous! I am sorry to say that I don’t know much about her.   I really just know that she is the subject of the Capital rotunda with along with you and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The three women who were the foundation of Woman's Suffrage.
The statue was unveiled in the nation's Capitol Rotunda on
February 15, 1921, just a year after women were granted the right to vote.

Lucretia Mott was a joyous, driven, brilliant, hard-working woman. She was one of the first who advocated for woman’s rights as well as her continuing devotion to anti-slavery. 

How did you meet her?

I had known her sister who lived near me in Rochester. When I traveled to Philadelphia for the 1854 Woman’s Rights Convention Lucretia Mott invited me to stay with her. She wrote—“It will give us pleasure to have thy company at 338 Arch Street, where we hope thou wilt make thy home. We shall of course be crowded, but we expect thee and shall prepare accordingly. We think such as thyself, devoted to good causes, should not have to seek a home.”

So how was your visit?

It was wonderful. Twenty-four people could sit at the table in their thirty-one-foot long dining room. The dinners were amazing full of the brightest minds and strongest activists of the time. William Lloyd Garrison sat at Mrs. Mott’s right hand at table and I was honored to sit at her left. Neither she nor I wanted to miss a bit of the table talk so at the conclusion of each meal she had brought in a little cedar tub filled with hot water and washed the silver, glass and fine china. I dried them with the whitest of towels while the brilliant conversation at the table went on uninterrupted.

What kind of food did she serve?

Mrs. Mott loved the food of her Nantucket Island childhood—rich codfish stews, corn pudding, pickled tongue and herring. She enjoyed spicy foods, tasty custards, and mince pie. Strawberries and gooseberries in cream were a particular favorite.

They all sound wonderful.

But her health was a continuing concern. All she was doing and the pressures she was under for working for these controversial issues of anti-slavery and woman’s rights took a toll. She was unstoppable. She had a playful way of presiding over meetings, encouraging speakers to move along and using good cheer to set off critics.  Still she often wrote of being so ill that it was impossible for her to work. She thought it was the stress of work. She wrote on more than one occasion that she had “stacks of woman’s rights letters to answer and it is so strange that I am bent over double with dyspepsia.”

I think that the food she enjoyed most added to her misery.

Can you explain more?

Lucretia Mott was born on Nantucket Island in 1793, After a long life
of social activism she died in Chester County outside Philadelphia in 1880. 

Mrs. Mott was known to enjoy a small bit of wine occasionally and even mix it in her custard recipes. On the other hand I have never tasted any alcoholic drink; why I would as soon touch arsenic. I was trained that way. In the second place, I have abstained in the matter of food. In campaigns where I have had to make as many speeches as any of the men who were speaking at the same time I would be the last to give out. That was because they would all refresh themselves after a hard evening by a supper. Meanwhile I would be sound asleep. So I have never had any indigestion in my life, and do not intend to.  I suppose a share of my health is due to my activity, my constant exercise and so on; but I am firmly convinced that it is due to my abstinence in drink and rich foods.

What led you to this style of eating?

We always ate simply at home and then I spent a month in a health sanatorium for a water cure. In 1855 I was exhausted and stepped away from my work –I have been on the road all year beginning with a two-month petition campaign riding in carriages through most of the New York counties in the dead of one of the coldest winters in years.  I then carried on my usual work through the summer and into the fall. By October I was exhausted and suffering with a continual and excruciating pain in my back.

What was the treatment like?

My day was so busy with prescribed activities, I almost felt as though I did not have time to put two thoughts together.  I had to undress for four cold-water baths and then dress for four periods of exercise. I took a daily drive out in the grounds. I almost felt as though I did not have time to put two thoughts together, but I did also have time to read. I did enjoy the special diet of healthy vegetables and sturdy wheat dishes at the three daily meals.

When you were 35 you purchased a policy from New York Life Insurance Company. The doctor's comments certainly describe the results of your healthy lifestyle.

Yes, Here’s what Dr. Moore wrote: height 5 ft. 5 in.; figure full; chest measure 38 in, weight, 156 pounds.; complexion, fair; habits, healthy and active; nervous affections, none; character of respiration, clear; resonant, murmur perfect; heart, normal in rhythm and sound; pulse 66 per minute; disease, none. I was pleased with his summary assessment: “The life is a very good one.”  I could not agree more.

This whole-wheat bread is easy to make and comes from the
recipes developed by the health-food advocates of the
19th-Century Sanatarium style of eating. Whole grains played
and important role. Mr. Kellogg even devised cereals for his patients.

Dyspepsia Bread

¼ cup warm water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 package active dry yeast

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup additional warm water

¼ cup molasses
½ teaspoon salt, optional
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour

In a large mixing bowl combine the water and sugar.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir gently. Set aside until this mixture begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. Stir ½ cup flour into this mixture. Pour the ¾ cup warm water into the bowl. Do not mix in.  Set this “sponge” aside until it is bubbling, about 10 or 15 minutes in a warm room. Do not rush these two steps.  At the end it should look like a mound of whipped cream floating on water.

Next, stir in molasses, optional salt, and then 2 cups of the whole wheat flour into this sponge.  You may need an additional half cup flour or so to yield a soft non-sticky dough.  Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Lightly butter a clean bowl. Put the dough into the bowl and turn it over so there the buttered side is upright.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set in a warm space to rise until double in size.  This may take as long as 3 hours. 

To make the bread. Punch the dough down, knead quickly,  and put in a greased bread pan.  It will fill a large 9- x 5- x 4-inch bread pan. Or for smaller and taller loaves divide between two 8- x 3- x 3-inch pans,  Once again allow the bread to rise until doubled. This may take a half hour, or an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake until the bread is lightly browned and sounds hollow when tapped on top, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from bread pan and let cool thoroughly on a baking rack.

Adapted from The New Family Book or Ladies Indispensable Companion and Housekeeper Guide  E. Hutchinson, 1854.

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1 comment:

  1. I love the way this piece is written. So very informative and love the history. Thank you Rae! Can't wait for the next installment!