Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a symposium on the topic of women and food, and one of the panel sessions focused on the history and legacy of community cookbooks in the United States.
It was a fascinating discussion, and the more I listened, the more I realized that the panelists could have just as easily been talking about fundraiser quilts as community cookbooks, because there were so many similarities between the two.
According to Linda Berzok, writing for The Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, “Community cookbooks (also known as compiled, regional, charitable, and fund-raising cookbooks) are a unique genre of culinary literature [that] focus on home cooking, often documenting regional, ethnic, family, and societal traditions, as well as local history.”
Fundraiser quilts are a special genre of quilts that document the same sorts of things. Because both community cookbooks and fundraiser quilts are typically made by defined groups of (usually) women in a particular place, they naturally tend to reflect the characteristics of those groups.
Such things as church, club, or school affiliation, political beliefs, social class, and ethnic background of the contributors, as well as popular tastes and current events might all be revealed in the end product.
Both community cookbooks and fundraiser quilts got their start in the 19th century in the U.S., although fundraiser quilts predate community cookbooks by at least 50 years.
Quilt historian Ricky Clark, in The Needlework of an American Lady/Social History of Quilts, maintains that The Boston Female Society for Missionary Purposes was making quilts to raise money to support frontier ministers as early as 1800.
The first community cookbooks started showing up in the mid-1800s during the Civil War. Women’s groups in both the North and South used them—along with fundraiser quilts—to raise money for everything from field hospitals to gunboats. After the war, women's clubs organized cookbook projects and created fundraising quilts to benefit widows, veterans, and orphans.
Early on, in addition to funding local charitable activities and religious efforts, these types of cookbooks and quilts helped underwrite a variety of political and social causes, including prison reform and women’s suffrage.
In the 1870s, both community cookbooks and fundraiser quilts were employed in the effort against alcoholism championed by Women’s Christian Temperance Unions.
“By 1915, as many as 6,000 community cookbooks had been published in the United States, and women were raising money to fund kindergartens and promote temperance and other political causes. In an era when females had few roles in public life, these cookbooks acknowledged their presence in the community.” (Michelle Green, Food and Wine, 12/02). The same could be said for early fundraiser quilts.
Whether quilting or compiling favorite recipes, women join together to monetize their skills for worthy causes and common goals. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, societal restraints were such that women had few other ways of contributing funds to their communities.
Although times have changed and those restraints are no longer compelling, it is notable that using both community cookbooks and fundraising quilts to raise money for charitable efforts and shared goals is a tradition that continues today.
Click here to return to top.
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor
See other archived columns here