The Kitchen: Maternal Advice Literature and Lived Experience

Three Wylie Women: A Generation of Late Nineteenth-Century Mothers
As you explore the exhibit, click on images to learn more about the artifacts and to read full transcriptions and view full-size scans of the letters.
The Kitchen

As the most private, family-centered, and multi-purpose space of the home, this room reveals the many expectations associated with the “woman’s sphere” or the home. Cooking, cleaning, washing, caring for child illness, and more would have all taken place within the kitchen. Not only would these responsibilities be performed by mothers, but “extended mothers”, daughters, and hired domestic servants. A space utilized by many outside the role of “woman of the house”, the kitchen simultaneously embodies frenzied maternity and problematizes the ideologies of the maternal advice literature.

The late nineteenth-century technological advancements within the realm of print led to greater accessibility of publications, many specifically advertised to women. Women’s print culture, directed towards the middle-class, supported an increasingly unattainable and complex domestic ideal. The comparison of these magazines and advice manuals to the written and lived experiences of Louisa, Maggie, and Seabrook exemplifies the inconsistency between ideal and experience.

<em>Mrs. Hale’s Cookbook</em>

Rebecca Wylie’s copy of Mrs. Hale’s New Book of Cookery and Complete Housekeeper exemplifies the real experience of mothering, a blending of expert advice and lived experience. 

Confused on who's who? Take a look at the Family Relationship Chart at the end of this exhibit.

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The Kitchen: Maternal Advice Literature and Lived Experience