Category Archives: Bingham Center

Scholars’ Tea with the Sallie Bingham Center, June 29th

Date: Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Time: 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Location: Rubenstein Library, Room 249 (Carpenter Conference Room)
Contact: cwhc@duke.edu

The Managing Editors of RFD at Short Mountain Sanctuary. From the James T. Sears Papers.
The Managing Editors of RFD at Short Mountain Sanctuary. From the James T. Sears Papers.

Please join the staff of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture for a Scholars’ Tea. Three recipients of Mary Lily Research Grants will present brief remarks about their research projects and allow time for conversation with library staff and other attendees.  Light refreshments will be served.

Presenters:

  • Jason Ezell, Ph.D. candidate, American Studies, University of Maryland, “Queer Shoulders: The Poetics of Radical Faerie Cultural Formation in Appalachia”
  • Margaret Galvan, Ph.D. candidate, English, The Graduate Center, CUNY, “In Visible Archives of the 1980s: Feminist Politics & Queer Platforms”
  • Yung-Hsing Wu, associate professor, English, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, “Closely, Consciously Reading Feminism”

Mary Lily Research Grants support researchers in their use of women’s and LGBTQ history collections at the Bingham Center.

Post contributed by Jennifer Scott, Bingham Center Public Services Intern.

 

Lois Waisbrooker in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

Photo May 20, 2 38 19 PMThe Lisa Unger Baskin Collection is filled with well-known names and gorgeous examples of books, but as I was looking through the recently cataloged books from the collection, I was excited to see three rather plain-looking books written by Lois Waisbrooker in the late-nineteenth century: Helen Harlow’s Vow, Perfect Motherhood, and My Century Plant. Never heard of them? Don’t worry, that’s kind of the point. Back in college as a history major, I studied Waisbrooker, and while she was never particularly well-known, she’s a fascinating example of how writing and books impacted women’s lives in the nineteenth century.

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Portrait of Waisbrooker from Helen Harlow’s Vow

Historian Joanne Passet has done an excellent job tracing Waisbrooker’s life in her book Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women’s Equality. Waisbrooker was born to a poor family in Upstate New York in 1826, and by age twenty she had been pressured into a marriage she didn’t want after getting pregnant, widowed, and forced to place her two children with other families as she didn’t have the economic means to care for them.1 These early experiences shaped Waisbrooker’s political views and her work: she was a spiritualist and then became interested in free love and sex radicalism.

Without a well-off family to fall back on, Waisbrooker struggled to make a life that allowed her to commit fully to advancing the cause of free love and women’s right to self-determination.2 It was never easy for Waisbrooker, but through writing she was at least able to eke out a living. These are just three of more than a dozen books she published, in addition to number of periodicals she founded or helped edit.

"I demand unqualified freedom for women as woman, and that all institutions of society be adjusted to such freedom"
Title page of My Century Plant. Waisbrooker founded Independent Publishing Company herself after struggling to find publishers willing to publish books dealing with sex.

Of course, the life Waisbrooker forged was possible because there were readers eager to read what she wrote. Waisbrooker’s writings validated their own experiences and  helped these women connect with a community of people whose views aligned with their own. In her analysis of readers’ letters published in the newspapers and journals founded or edited by Waisbrooker, Passet found that most of the women writing were working-class and rural, commonly from Midwestern and Western states.3 Isolated in their home communities, Waisbrooker’s work gave these women room to discuss topics like marital rape and women’s sexual fulfillment, literature that resonated with their experiences, and a way to imagine new economic and social models.4

Photo May 19, 2 39 44 PM
Newspaper clipping about Waisbrooker’s arrest on obscenity charges that was pasted in Perfect Motherhood

We get a glimpse of Waisbrooker’s readers in this copy of Perfect Motherhood: Or Mabel Raymond’s Resolve. A previous owner has pasted in a newspaper clipping describing Waisbrooker’s arrest in Topeka, Kansas “on the charging of sending obscene material through the mails.” This suggests the owner was not just a casual reader, but someone who followed Waisbrooker’s career and thought this clipping worth saving with Waisbrooker’s writings.

Having Waisbrooker’s works along side books like Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile speaks to the depth of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection and to the variety of ways women have engaged with books and the written word. For Waisbrooker these books were a means of survival, for both herself financially and the ideas she championed. For women readers, these books offered a vital intellectual connection with like-minded women and a path towards their own sexual and economic liberation.

Footnotes
1. Joanne Passet, Sex Radicals and The Quest for Women’s Equality (Urbana,Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 112-113.
2. Ibid., 116.
3. Ibid., 47, 55, 119.
4. Ibid., 153.

Post contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian

“Daisy, Daisy…”

Spring, and a woman’s thoughts turn to…bicycles? Apart from sudden showers and the onslaught of inchworms and allergens, spring is perhaps the finest season to ride. Trees are filling out, flowers are a’bloom and the birds are a’tweet: in short the whole planet has its hormones on fine display. What’s a girl not to like—especially on a bicycle built for her, equal in every way to a man’s?

1900 Columbia bicycle from Baden
Ad from the Gary and Sandra Baden Collection of Print Advertisements

This 1900 ad for Columbia’s chainless bicycle makes the progressive argument that women are entitled to the same quality bike as a man. The copy goes on to show how the bike’s frame accommodates the latest in women’s biking fashions, and how the chainless design facilitates mounting and dismounting while eliminating the possibility of one’s skirt getting caught in a chain—or soiled by it, a concern that persists among our current-day urbanites rolling along with the right pant-leg rolled-up out of harm’s way. Actually, this basic frame design is still with us, in unisex “Dutch” and townie bike styles like the Breezers that Zagster provides for rent. Not only that, but the “bevel gear” drive system was the precursor to today’s eclectic shaft-driven bicycles (still trumpeted as “innovative.” Hah!). All in all, the Columbia was a triumph of engineering in its day, especially with the available option of a coaster brake, which is also still in use in kids’ bikes and beach cruisers.

Columbia additionally had the marketing vision to realize that the bike and rider formed a single ensemble, where the lines of the frame “Contribute to the Graceful Appearance of the Rider…”  That came at a price, though. $75 in 1900 roughly equates to around $2000 today, which would put a modern woman in the market for a top-of-the-line bike from today’s major manufacturers. On the other hand, grace is priceless, and the freedom and autonomy provided by the bicycle was likely well worth the investment. In fact, the bicycle has occasionally been praised as an instrument of liberation, and early feminists such as Susan B. Anthony were also advocates for cycling, as much for gender-political as for its health benefits. Liberate the body and the mind will follow!

Post contributed by Rick Collier, Hartman Center

Adding to our collection of Movable Books

With constant access to moving images via your cell phone, laptop, or tablet, I expect it is difficult to imagine when even simple movement in a book was revolutionary. But just image the impact of being able to manipulate part of a page in a book in the 18th century!

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It is difficult to know less about an author!

The Rubenstein’s History of Medicine Collection features many early movable books, which were usually intended for scholars. These were generally the “turn-up” style, often used by students of anatomy, where separate leaves, each featuring a different section of the body, were hinged together and attached to a page. One of the best examples, De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome was printed by Andreas Vesalius in 1543.

It wasn’t until the late 1700s that movable books intended for entertainment were produced, usually for children. In 1765, Robert Sayer created a movable book that involved lifting a flap. Ann Montanaro explains the construction of these books in her “A Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books:”

[the] books were composed of single, printed sheets folded perpendicularly into four. Hinged at the top and bottom of each fold, the picture was cut through horizontally across the center to make two flaps that could be opened up or down. When raised, the pages disclosed another hidden picture underneath, each having a few lines of verse.

These books quickly became popular and had different names based on their content or composition of illustrations, including “metamorphoses,” “harlequinades,” as well as the unfortunately-named “toilet books.”

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My favorite page features a lion that transforms into a griffin, that transforms into an eagle.

As part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, we recently received one of these metamorphoses books, handmade by Elizabeth Winspear in 1799. Unfortunately, that is the limit of all we know about her. The book features just four pages in full color with accompanying verse, each page with two flaps that reveal a new drawing underneath, in stages. The verses include instructions for how to move the flaps. One reads: The Lion Roaring from his Den / with porpose [sic] for to rainge [sic] / He’s turn’d into another shape / Turn down & see the sight so strange

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The Lion Roaring from his Den / with porpose [sic] for to rainge [sic] / He’s turn’d into another shape / Turn down & see the sight so strange
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Each fold of the page must be carefully calculated.

I don’t want to give everything away! There is immense entertainment value to this little item. Initially we are introduced to Adam, whose Eve is not what one has come to expect. However, it is clear that Winspear also intended some instruction or moral training to occur by reading this book, for all does not end well, despite a character’s obtaining gold and silver. The piece ends as a cautionary tale.

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The eagle holds its prey, an unfortunate infant, in its grasp.

Stop by and see this new gem in our collection!

Contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Original cataloger and archivist.

Rubenstein Library 2016-2017 Travel Grant Award Winners

The Rubenstein Library’s three research center annually award travel grants to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars through a competitive application process. Congratulations to this year’s recipients, we look forward to working with all of you!

Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

Jason Ezell, Ph.D. candidate, American Studies, University of Maryland, “Queer Shoulders: The Poetics of Radical Faerie Cultural Formation in Appalachia.”

Margaret Galvan, Ph.D. candidate, English, The Graduate Center, CUNY, “Burgeoning zine aesthetics in the 1980SLA2053s through the censored Conference Diary from the controversial Barnard Sex Conference (1982).”

Kirsten Leng, assistant professor, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Breaking Up the Truth with Laughter: A Critical History of Feminism, Comedy, and Humor.

Linda Lumsden, associate professor, School of Journalism, University of Arizona, The Ms. Makeover:  The survival, evolution, and cultural significance of the venerable feminist magazine.

Mary-Margaret Mahoney and Danielle Dumaine, Ph.D. candidates, history, University of Connecticut, for a documentary film, Hunting W.I.T.C.H.: Feminist Archives and the Politics of Representation (1968-1979, and present).

Jason McBride, independent scholar, for the first, comprehensive and authorized biography of Kathy Acker.

Kristen Proehl, assistant professor, English, SUNY-Brockport, Queer Friendship in Young Adult Literature, 1850-Present.

Yung-Hsing Wu, associate professor, English, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Closely, Consciously Reading Feminism.

History of Medicine Collections –

Cecilio Cooper, PhD candidate in African American Studies, Northwestern University, for dissertation research on “Phantom Limbs, Fugitive Flesh: Slavery + Colonial Dissection.”

Sara Kern, PhD candidate in History & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Penn State University, for dissertation work on “Measuring Bodies, Defining Health: Medicine, Statistics, and Civil War Legacy in the Nineteenth-Century America.”

Professor Kim Nielsen, Disability Studies & History, University of Toledo, for research on her book, The Doctress and the Horsewhip, a biography of Dr. Anna B. Ott (1819-1893).

 

John Hope Franklin Research Center –

Beatrice Adams, Rutgers University – Why African Americans remained in the American South during the Second Great Migration.

Erik McDuffie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Garveyism in the Diasporic Midwest: The American Heartland and Global Black Freedom, 1920Come and Join us Brothers1-1980

Gretchen Henderson, Georgetown University – A narrative and libretto for an opera rooted in African American slavery and history entitled CRAFTING THE BONDS

Maria Montalvo, Rice University – All Could Be Sold: Making and Selling Enslaved People in the Antebellum South (1813-1865)

Nick Witham, University College London, Institute of the Americas – “The Popular Historians: American Historical Writing and the Politics of the Past, 1945-present”

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History –

FOARE Fellowship for Outdoor Advertising Research:

Dr. Francisco Mesquita, Fernando Pessoa University, Portugal, “Billboard Graphic Production and Design Analysis”

John Furr Fellowship for JWT Research:

Jeremiah Favara, University of Oregon, “An Army of Some: Recruiting for Difference and Diversity in the U.S. Military”

 Alvin Achenbaum Travel Grants:

Faculty:

Megan Elias, Borough of Manhattan Community College, “Be His Guest: Conrad Hilton and the Birth of the Hospitality Industry”

Sarah Elvins, Department of History, University of Manitoba, “Advertising, Processed Foods, and the Changing Notions of Skill in American Home Baking, 1940-1990”

Students:

Alison Feser, Anthropology, University of Chicago, “After Analog: Photochemical Life in Rochester, New York”

Spring Greeney, Environmental History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Line Dry: And Environmental History of Doing the Wash, 1841-1992”

Elizabeth Castaldo Lunden, Media Studies – Center for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University, “Oscar’s Red Carpet: Celebrity Endorsements from Local to Global (A Media History)”

Eric Martell, History, State University of New York – Albany, “Kodak Advertising in the U.S. and Latin America, 1920-1960”

Eleanore and Harold Jantz Fellowship:

Dr. Jennifer Welsh, Lindenwood University-Belleville – Research on the presentation of female saints in German Catholic prayers and devotional works from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Photographic Research on Obstetric and Gynecological Instruments

Auvard Weighted Speculum from the L. M. Draper Collection..
Auvard Weighted Speculum from the L. M. Draper Collection.

With generous assistance from the History of Medicine travel grant, I traveled to Duke University to view and photograph historical obstetric and gynecological tools housed in Duke’s History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  There I viewed various artifact collections donated by practicing regional doctors, including the L. M. Draper Collection, the George D. & Evelyn Wilbanks Collection, and several anonymous collections.  I also viewed anatomical lift-the-flap guide books, lift-the-flap anatomical fugitive sheets and the Trent Collection of Ivory Anatomical Manikins, all of which were used to teach medical procedures, including delivery.

Having access to Duke’s collection was an incredible experience.  I treated it like a short artist residency.  I set up my lights, a pop-up tent, my camera and a tripod in a study room within the library.  Every morning, a cart was wheeled in with OB/GYN tools, anatomy text books and glass slides.  It was exciting (and a little nerve-wracking), opening up boxes and not knowing their contents.  For some items, I felt I was discovering the files for the first time.  In a way I was: besides the archivists who received and catalogued them, some of the items had never been requested.  I often felt as though I were in the medical field—donning nitrile gloves, carefully removing the items from their boxes, gently lying them down on the fabric of my pop-up lighting tent, careful not to harm them in any way.  I found myself photographing them as abstractions or as jewelry, a style of cataloguing unlike other projects I have photographed.

Smellie-Style Obstetrical Forceps from the George & Evelyn Wilbanks Collection.
Smellie-Style Obstetrical Forceps from the George & Evelyn Wilbanks Collection.

My work focuses on historical and contemporary women’s lives and I am particularly interested in the past’s technology and how it relates to today.  I have previously done photographic projects on antique vibrators, social media and the practice of keeping a commonplace book and with this project, the history of labor and delivery technology.  While the process of getting pregnant has changed with IVF and the location of delivery may have changed, the actual process of delivery has not changed.  Although American society emphasizes new products & experiences, and the medical world uses recent technology & procedures, women continue to deliver only one of two ways—vaginally or via Cesarean section.  Prior to my arrival at Duke, I assumed the tools used in labor and delivery were harmful to the infants and delivering women.  I also wondered how deadly labor actually was—in fictionalized accounts in both books and screen, no female who delivered a newborn ever lived, and seldom the child.  I expected antique tools to be brutal and different in appearance than today.  It surprised me that many of the tools I photographed resembled contemporary tools, only with time’s effect through rust or evident aging.

My research at Duke is the beginning of both my project and into further research on the history of the OB/GYN tools and their uses.  Although in its early stages, I plan to study these tools’ history, as well as their use & influence today.  The final images may be printed as slides, emulating turn of the twentieth century magic-lantern plates or late-twentieth century educational slide shows.  Whatever form these images take, I was particularly inspired by the anatomical lift-the flap books & broad sides and will create an artist book influenced by these interactive educational guides.  I look forward to sharing future developments of this project. Thank you to everyone at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library for their assistance during my stay.

Post contributed by History of Medicine Travel Grant recipient Lindsey Beal. Beal is a photo-based artist and professor in Providence, Rhode Island.  Her work and further information can be found at lindseybeal.com.

April 16: ZINE MACHINE: Durham Printed Matter Festival

Date: Saturday, April 16, 2016
Time: 11:00 AM-7:00 PM
Location: Durham Armory, 220 Foster Street, Durham, NC 27701
Website: www.zinemachinefest.com

Zine Machine #2 poster by Pat Moriarity.
Zine Machine #2 poster by Pat Moriarity.

On Saturday, April 16, librarians from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture will be joining over 150 zine-makers, artists, print-makers, independent authors and booksellers at the Durham Armory for the 2nd Zine Machine printed matter festival.

We’ll be setting up a pop-up zine library and teaching people how to make mini-zines. (If you can’t make the festival, you can still download and make your own copy of the Bingham Center’s minizine! Instructions on how to fold it are included.)

The Bingham Center holds over 6,000 zines dating from the early-1990’s through the present, by women, girls, queer and trans identified people. Our collections are always open to the public, but this is a fun way to browse a few highlights while getting a chance to start your own collection with creative zines from local, national, and international writers and artists.

The festival is organized by local artists and Duke faculty Bill Fick and Bill Brown, along with Everett Rand of Mineshaft Magazine to celebrate autonomous, alternative printed media and create a venue for our vibrant regional self-publishing community.

This year, the festival will also be host such luminaries of the printed matter universe as Pat Moriarity, Mary Fleener, and Keith Knight, as well as returning guests Girls Rock NC, Internationalist Books, and the the Bingham Center.

Post contributed by Kelly Wooten, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

March 29: Wikipedia Editathon – Women of Science and Philosophy

When: Tuesday, March 29, 6-9pm
Where: The Edge Workshop room, Bostock Library
Wikipedia Meetup Page
Facebook Event

Please join us for an opportunity to learn how to edit Wikipedia articles for a global audience, and to help record the hidden history of women in science and philosophy. This event will help document women’s achievements in the fields of science and philosophy, drawing on the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection and Project Vox.

From labor, science and activism, to art and philosophy, the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection and Project Vox document the many ways women have been productive, creative, and socially engaged over more than five hundred years. A wealth of rare documentary materials in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection sheds light on the long history of women’s involvement in a variety of scientific disciplines. Project Vox is an online platform developed by scholars at Duke for discovering and discussing the forgotten contributions made by women to philosophy and science during the early modern period. The goal of this Edit-a-thon is to raise awareness about the key intellectual figures whose works are featured in the collections by creating and contributing to entries on Wikipedia.

Put your knowledge and intellectual curiosity into action by creating, editing, or translating Wikipedia entries that document the lives and contributions of women in philosophy and science. By collaborating together we can disseminate this important information to the broader public. This event is part of a worldwide movement to increase the percentage of women editors and woman-focused articles within Wikipedia. Bring your laptop if you have one, or use one of ours. You can also participate from anywhere in the world!

Jane S. Richardson, a James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry, who developed the ribbon-diagram as the first 3-D representation of protein structures, and a noted Wikipedia contributor, will inaugurate the Edit-a-thon. Refreshments will be provided.

 

Sponsored by Duke University Libraries, the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, University Archives, the Italian Program at Duke, and the Duke Medical Center Archives.

Women at Work: the Nuns of the Ripoli Press

There are many “firsts” in the Lisa Unger Baskin collection, and this early work is one of my favorites. It is one of the first books we know to be typeset by women.

Incominciano Le uite de Pontefici et imperadori Romani [Lives of the Popes and Roman Emperors] was published by the press at the Convent of San Jacopo Di Ripoli in Florence in 1478. The Baskin Collection includes two copies. They are incunabula [cradle books], a term traditionally used to indicate works that were printed before 1501, when printing technology was still in its infancy.

Over the course of nine years (1476-1484), the Ripoli press issued around one hundred different titles, half of which were secular.  The convent’s diario (daybook) notes that the Dominican sisters received modest wages for their labor, which were contributed to a common fund to support the convent.

The nuns work as typesetters was in keeping with the order’s rules. The Dominican constitutions directed the nuns to copy manuscripts for religious use, and the new technology of typesetting accomplished the same end. I have to wonder what it was like for them to literally retool with this new technology.

RipoliNuns-IllustratedCapitals-detail
Rubrication on copy 1

The first copy in the Baskin Collection is complete and is decorated with hand-colored initials called rubrication. Copy two lacks the first six leaves and has not yet had the decorative initials added. It is untrimmed, and over the years comments have been added in several hands and inks. Most interesting is the extensive marginalia around the entry for the (most likely) fictional Pope Joan with its long manicule and notation “papa femina.”

RipoliNuns-Pope Joan entry
“papa feminina” marginalia on copy 2
RipoliNuns-handwritten section header
Handwritten section header
RipoliNuns-Colophon
colophon
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Spine of copy 2

I look forward to sharing these volumes with students and visitors. If you run your fingers gently over the pages, you can feel the impressions made by the thousands of pieces of moveable type the nuns of Ripoli carefully set by hand.

To learn more about the work of the Convent of San Jacopo Di Ripoli consult:

Post contributed by Naomi Nelson, Ph.D., Associate University Librarian and Director, Rubenstein Library.

Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: Mexican Ravioles (1947)

cookbook coverIf the E. coli outbreak at Chipotle has you looking for a new way to satisfy your cravings or if you are simply hoping to make a step up from those late night Taco Bell runs, then this post is for you. If you have a hankering for warm cheese and fried foods (and who doesn’t?), Josefina Velazquez de Leon and her Mexican Cook Book Devoted to American Homes are here to help.

Before I introduce you to the wonders of Mexican Ravioli, the woman behind this delicious (yet messy) dish deserves a brief shout-out. A famous figure in mid-20th century Mexico, Josefina Velazquez de Leon has been called the “apostle of the enchilada” by one food historian. A widow who began teaching cooking classes in the 1920s, Velazquez de Leon was popular with Mexico City’s middle and upper class women. These women came to class hoping to learn how to cook Mexican favorites as well as the secrets to European cuisine. She was a particularly sought after cake decorator and wowed her students with sugar sculptures of such Hollywood icons as Popeye the Sailor Man and Snow White & the Seven Dwarves.

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“Apostle of the Enchilada” Josefina Velazquez de Leon

In addition to classes at her Mexico City cooking school, Velazquez de Leon took to preaching the word of the enchilada in magazines and books in the 1930s and 1940s. Initially submitting recipes and helpful culinary hints to women’s magazines, Velazquez de Leon published her first cookbook in the late 1930s with the release of Practical Manual of Cooking and Pastry. Velazquez de Leon would eventually publish 150 cookbooks and establish her own press. Quick to adopt new technologies, Velazquez de Leon worked to reach a larger audience through radio and television programming in the 1940s. Her first of many daily radio programs was called “Laziness in the Kitchen.” The show was intended to teach women to prepare appetizing meals with the modern appliances and packaged foods making their way into Mexican homes at the time. In the early 1950s, Velazquez de Leon made the jump to television with the launching of her show “The Menu of the Week.”

Through print, radio, and television, Velazquez de Leon worked to promote Mexican foods at a time when many of her contemporaries concentrated on international cuisine and traditional Mexican dishes were associated with lower social classes. Her work highlighted the diversity of Mexican cuisine as well as the culinary contributions made by each of the country’s regions to a national food landscape. Velazquez de Leon’s devotion to her nation’s cuisine did not preclude experimentation. She frequently fused culinary elements from other nations with traditional Mexican dishes. The recipe tested here is just one example of this. Another recipe, “Italian Enchiladas,” uses sardines, potatoes, and Parmesan cheese as enchilada filling.

Mexican Cook Book Devoted to American Homes offers a particularly interesting look at Velazquez de Leon’s promotion of Mexican cuisine. The book is tailored to the needs of cooks in the United States. In addition to providing text in both Spanish and English, the book explains the main ingredients and cooking equipment used in Mexican cooking. Instructions for preparing the essentials (such as tortillas and beans) in the mid-20th century American kitchen are also provided. Most of the recipes included are recognizable to the 2016 chef.  However, for the more adventurous American cook, Velazquez de Leon offers a chance to test your skills or possibly cause your dinner guests to flee. “Exquisite eggs,” “huevo rancheros,” and the tantalizingly named “Mexican Macaroni” are sure to delight. The somewhat oddly named “Horse Back Riders with Leather Overalls” seems like more of a gamble. But if you’ve got a radish, a ½ pound of lard, a pork loin, 12 eggs, and a laurel leaf cluttering the pantry it might be worth considering. Sadly, I lacked most of those. Nor did I have the 5 birds required to make “Old Fashioned Pigeon” or the “kid” necessary to cook “A Kid in its Blood.” I assume that this is a reference to a young goat. I also doubted that I possessed the technical abilities or the amount of bleach that would ultimately be needed to create the undoubtedly appetizing “Gut Stuffed with Blood.”

I was a bit less daring and went with the more sedate “Mexican Ravioles.” Despite the delectable end result, the teacher in Velazquez de Leon would probably have been horrified at the mess I made as well as the purple plastic spatula that I melted in a pot of hot lard. This was C plus work at best.  However, not all of the blame should go to the student.The cooking instructions, for instance, require the use of 2 eggs and tomato puree, neither of which made it into the ingredients list. Broth is listed as an ingredient, but fails to make an appearance in the recipe. The appropriate oven temperature is also omitted. I picked 375 degrees for no particular reason.

recipe

The ingredients (or, at least, the ones that you actually need) are basic and easy to find. I’ll take this opportunity to point out that lard is a key ingredient. The recipe lists nearly a ½ pound of this, but I used significantly more (a fact which would likely make my Southern grandmother immensely proud).ingredientslard!

The dough, a combination of flour, cornmeal, lard, salt, egg, and baking powder, was rolled out and then cut into medium-sized circles. Following the dough instructions provided in the recipe produced an extremely dry mixture. Upon reflection, I assume that this must have been what the broth was for, but hindsight is 20/20 and I simply added hot water at the time.

rolling

The dough circles are then filled with cheese, folded closed, and sealed along the edges with egg white.

dough

And now onto the frying! My experience creating fried foods is minimal so I was surprised at how easy this step was. (My experience eating fried foods, on the other hand, is not as I make a yearly pilgrimage to the North Carolina State Fair). I simply tossed a hunk of lard in a pot, waited until it seemed hot enough, and then dropped in the ravioli. I waited until the dough took on an attractive golden brown color and then removed the ravioli from the pot. While this was not the final step, I’ll admit that I “tested” 1 or more of these post-frying. It was a good decision. Warm, fried cornbread-like nuggets filled with melted cheese could never be a bad decision.

result

Making the sauce was the next step. Onions and green chiles are (that’s right, you guessed it!) fried in lard. Tomato puree is added and the mixture is boiled until thickened. While it thickens, you get to put away the lard and bring out the butter. Layers of ravioli, sauce, cheese, and chunks of butter are created in a baking dish and then put in the oven until golden brown.

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Going into the Oven
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And coming out of the oven

The end result was unsurprisingly delicious. The sauce was slightly spicy. The ravioli were flaky, warm, and topped with melted butter and cheese. It was similar to an empanada, but with a thicker, more cornbread-like dough. Would I make it again? Maybe. It was messy and took an unexpectedly long time to cook. That being said, the fresh-from-the-fryer ravioli were worth the effort.

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A lovely little biography of Josefina Velazquez de Leon was used for this post and can be found in Jeffrey M. Pilcher’s The Human Tradition in Mexico.

Post Contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Coordinator