Here Is a Suffragette-Approved Recipe for Gingerbread

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Here Is a Suffragette-Approved Recipe for Gingerbread
Image:Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images); Pegasus Books (Getty Images)

One of the lesser-known tactics employed by the American women’s suffrage movement: crowdsourced pro-suffrage cookbooks. They’re the subject of a new book, All Stirred Up: Suffrage Cookbooks, Food, and the Battle for Women’s Right to Vote, which collects many of the recipes that were included and adapts them for the modern kitchen. And now you can try one of them for yourself, because you probably needed a good gingerbread recipe, anyway.

Image:Catherine H. Palczewski Postcard Archive, University of Northern Iowa.

The cookbooks contained recipes collected from many women, meant to either raise money, promote the cause, or both. As author Laura Kumin explains, there are few of these books remaining (six or eight, depending on whether you count pamphlets) and they all took different angles of approach: “The Boston cookbook put its suffrage message at the end. The Los Angeles and Detroit cookbooks did not contain any specifically prosuffrage materials, and thus their primary endeavor was perhaps more a tool for fundraising, while the Rockford, Washington, and Pittsburgh cookbooks interspersed prosuffrage pieces in among the recipes.”

“Building on two concurrent developments in American cookbooks: the popularity of the breakout volume now known as the Fannie Farmer cookbook and the growth of community cookbooks,” Kumin explains, “they created their own cookbooks to gain entrée into the homes of women who were uninterested and maybe even hostile to the suffrage message.” And so we have excerpted from All Stirred Up a gingerbread recipe from the Suffrage Cook Book: A Collection of Recipes, published in 1916 by the Equal Suffrage League of Wayne County, Detroit. (The recipe was contributed by a woman named Julia Trowbridge Quirk.) In keeping with the conventions of the time, the directions are very sparse.


  • 1 c. molasses
  • 1 c. shortening
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cloves

Method: Bake in a slow oven for about 40 to 50 minutes.

And here is the modern adaptation by Kumin, with much more direction. Enjoy!

This gingerbread is unusual (at least for modern bakers), in that it contains sour cream. It is moist and not too sweet. The bread melds the flavors of three spices, but none dominates. If you prefer a stronger ginger taste, adding a half teaspoon more ginger will bring that flavor forward. If you want to sweeten it, consider a whipped cream topping or a cream cheese frosting of equal amounts of butter and cream cheese(about 4 ounces each), with about 8 ounces of confectioners’ sugar and 1⁄2 teaspoon of vanilla.


  • 3 cups (12 3⁄4 oz/360 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz/237 ml. molasses
  • 16 tablespoons/1 cup (8 oz/226 g) unsalted butter melted
  • 1 cup (7 1⁄2 oz/213g) light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (8 oz/227 g) sour cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F/180° C. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch/23x 33 cm pan, tapping out the excess flour, or use a cooking spray with flour.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, andcloves in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Beat the molasses, butter, and brown sugar using a hand or standmixer. Add the eggs and sour cream and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until all the ingre-dients are blended.
  5. Spread into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Cool the gingerbread in the pan.

Recipe excerpted from All Stirred Up by Laura Kumin. Published by Pegasus Books. © Laura Kumin. Reprinted with permission.

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