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Washington Women’s Cook Book

In 1909 the Washington Equal Suffrage Association published a cookbook with this credo on the frontispiece: “Give us a vote and we will cook the better for a wide outlook.” The Washington Women’s Cook Book was one of a number of cookbooks produced over the course of the suffrage campaign, all designed to promote some combination of “good cooking and sure voting.” Modeled on the popular genre of charity cookbooks, the cookbooks were designed primarily as fundraisers but also proved quite helpful in building good will for the cause. By focusing on the womanly arts, cookbooks reinforced the key suffrage argument that voting would not strip women of their domestic skills. Or as the cover of the Washington Women’s Cook Book put it: “Votes for Women/Good Things to Eat.”

A year later Washington voters approved a state women’s suffrage referendum by a hefty 2-1 margin. It had been fourteen long years since Utah and Idaho had given women the vote, a period often referred to as “the doldrums,” and the Washington state victory in 1910 proved a major turning point for the national campaign. In 1911 California voted in favor of women’s suffrage, followed by Arizona, Kansas and Oregon in 1912, and Nevada and Montana in 1914. Suddenly an awful lot of women were actually voting and politicians were forced to take notice. Western states played a critical role in these breakthroughs, first by successfully orchestrating state by state victories and then by showing the rest of the country what the political landscape looked like when women started to vote.