Dining with the suffrage movement


Initially, author and lawyer Laura Kumin, was trying to gain her teenagers’ attention. When she couldn’t stop them in her kitchen long enough to teach them to cook, she turned to writing a book full of worldly advice.

Then she realized, teenagers weren’t going to read that either.

But a blog. Yes, a blog they might peruse. So, she created the Mother Would Know blog to help pass on the joys of home cooking.

As she crafted her online presence, the former lawyer, recovered lawyer she says in Washington D.C. speak, she never left behind her love of history, politics and culture. She began to research historical recipes and found a niche that readers across a spectrum of ages are hungry to devour.

Now, Kumin writes about recipes that are wrapped in history, culled from formative times in America’s past when food, and the traditions surrounding it, were served with a purpose that was far more than filling hungry bellies.

Next week readers can tune in to hear her speak live via a zoom meeting with the League of Women Voters of Baldwin County. Kumin will discuss her newest release, “All Stirred Up: Suffrage Cookbooks, Food and the Battle for Women’s Right to Vote.”

“It is not exactly a cookbook, it is a very different kind of history book,” Kumin said. “It’s the history of the people who made suffrage happen and their recipes and what their lives were like.”

For a swift reminder that the 70-year battle to pass the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote is not ancient history check the book’s timeline: Oreo cookies were invented before women were able to enter the ballot booth.

“The suffrage movement went on during the Civil War, World War II and the Spanish Flu pandemic. It makes me think about the fact that our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers were either for or against suffrage or maybe even voted for the first time after that movement was successful,” she said.

Kumin said suffragists often canvassed neighborhoods with cookbooks under their arms and used the recipes as a way to lean into a conversation about the right to vote.

“Imagine someone knocks on your door and has a cookbook with a great recipe and then sort of moves the conversation to their issue of suffrage and before you know it you are hearing something you weren’t prepared to hear and you might not have opened the door if you knew that was their intention. Cookbooks were used as a Trojan horse,” Kumin said.

The book does include several recipes featured in those early suffrage cookbooks including the original recipe for brownies, invented in the late 19th century.

Kumin is also the author of “The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World” which examines what life was like for people in Alexander Hamilton’s time.