University of Delaware Library - Special Collections Department

Household Management
Young Lady's Home

Louisa C. Tuthill, 1798-1879.
The Young Lady's Home. New Haven: S. Babcock, 1839.

Louisa Tuthill took a strongly anti-feminist stance, opposing a role for women beyond the home. She views "a desire to mingle in public affairs, a wrangling in controversy, and a hankering for public applause [as] unbecoming the dignity and delicacy of woman."

Specimens of Needle-work

Specimens of Needle-work Executed in the School of Great Cressingham. Swaffham: John S. Gowing, Printer, 1845.

Specimens of Needle-work, a recent addition to Special Collections, is a rare example of actual designs executed by a student. Included are embroidery and cross-stitching as well as inset sleeves and gathering.

Sarah Josepha Hale, 1788-1879.
Mrs. Hale's Receipts for the Million. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson, 1857.

Sarah Hale was a widow with five young children who turned to teaching and writing to support her family. After her first novel Northwood became popular, she was hired as editor for the Ladies Magazine. She went on to the editorship of Godey's Ladies Magazine, the most successful woman's periodical of its day. Hale was active in supporting education for women, particularly medical education, job opportunities for women, and child welfare. Receipts for the Million, a virtual encyclopedia of domestic arts, contains over four thousand recipes, household hints, and famous quotations. In her preface, Hale states: It is not enough that woman understands the art of cookery and of managing her house: she must also take care of herself; of children; of all who will be dependent on her for direction, for health, for happiness.

J. H. Walsh.
A Manual of Domestic Economy: Suited to Families Spending from £100 to £1000 a Year. London: G. Routledge & Co., 1857.

This encyclopedic work includes everything a middle-class housewife would need to know. The reader can find prices for plumber's work, design of toilets, nutritional components of common foods, prenatal and infant care, and recipes. Filled with clear illustrations and well indexed, the book gives modern readers a detailed picture of Victorian domestic life.

Gift of Helen Bain Brown

On Colour

Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, 1797-1875.
On Colour, and on the Necessity for a General Diffusion of Taste Among All Classes. London: J. Murray, 1858.

During the late nineteenth century, as many more families entered the middle class, women often felt a lack of the social skills and refinements that they observed among those considered socially above them. This led to an increase in the popularity of all types of advice literature, but particularly to those that advertised as teaching "good taste" in home decorating.

Mrs. (Isabella Mary) Beeton, 1836-1865.
The Book of Household Management. London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, 1869.

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management was the most widely read of all household advice books in the nineteenth century. It is the best example of advice literature aimed at the new middle-class housewife and her household staff. In the preface, Isabella Beeton tells the reader that she was motivated to write the book by her desire to educate the housewife to achieve the perfect home:

What moved me, in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering which I had seen brought upon men and women by household mismanagement. I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife's badly cooked dinners and untidy ways. Men are now so well served out of doors - at their clubs, well-ordered taverns, and dining-houses - that, in order to compete with the attraction of these places, a mistress must be thoroughly acquainted with the theory and practice of cookery, as well as be perfectly conversant with all the other arts of making and keeping a comfortable home.


Eunice White Bullard Beecher, "Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher."
Motherly Talks with Young Housekeepers. New York: J. B. Ford, 1873.

Motherly Talks is composed of short articles that originally appeared in the The Christian Union, a magazine established by Mrs. Beecher's husband, the noted liberal Congregational minister and abolitionist, Henry Ward Beecher. Topics ranged from house cleaning to recipes to raising children.

Gift of Mrs. Thomas M. Scruggs & Margaret Cook

Catherine E. Beecher, 1800-1878.
The New Housekeeper's Manual… New York: J. B. Ford, 1874.

Beecher, the sister of the abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, was a proponent of women's rights and education for women, fighting for increased recognition of the importance of the work women did in managing homes and raising families. She believed that women should expand their place in society by becoming teachers, allowing them to use their nurturing skills and moral conscience in a professional sphere. She helped to establish several women's colleges and worked to make domestic science a field of academic study. Although she spent her life advocating for women, she opposed women's suffrage and saw women's role in the family as primary.

Juliet Corson, 1842-1897.
Family Living on $500 a Year: A Daily Reference Book for Young and Inexperienced Housewives. NY: Harper & Brothers, 1890.

Juliet Corson was a pioneer advocate for better food and cooking for poor families, writing pamphlets, lecturing, and establishing a cooking school in New York City. She was internationally recognized as an expert on teaching dietetics and educating teachers and nurses on plain, affordable cooking.

Girl's Room

A Girl's Room; with Plans and Designs for Work Upstairs and Down and Entertainments for Herself and Friends. Boston: D. Lothrop, 1886.

A Girl's Room includes directions for sewing and decorating projects using materials found around the house as well as hobby and recreational projects. Of particular interest are the many projects which involve journal writing and family history research.

American Girl's Room

Miss Eliza Leslie, 1787-1858.
The American Girl's Book; or, Occupation for Play Hours. Sixteenth edition. New York: James Miller, 1874.

Eliza Leslie was a popular writer of cookbooks, etiquette books, and juvenile fiction. Originally written in 1831, The American Girl's Book includes parlor games, sewing projects, word games and riddles, none very physically active. Leslie emphasizes the importance of play in children's lives, writing that "In families where the children are over educated (as is now too often the case) the parents, forgetting that they themselves were once young, allow no recreations but those of so grave a character, that play becomes more difficult and fatiguing than study."

Scrap Album

Scrap Album, late nineteenth century.

A popular hobby for girls during the Victorian era was the making of scrapbooks. Begun as a method of documenting life events with tickets, invitations, and greeting cards, the albums became commercialized. Printers began producing cards and pictures specifically to be collected by young women. Scraps, small brightly colored pictures, were produced by the thousands in series such as holidays, animals, and flowers.

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