Thesis

The good housewife's receipt book: gender in the early-modern English kitchen

“The Good Housewife’s Receipt Book” is a master’s thesis investigating the real and symbolic role of the middling-sort rural English housewife of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and the resulting gendered nature of ideas about household food production and domestic industry. This particular housewife identity, though a reality for only a narrow demographic, was symbolic of the lifecycle for the vast majority of early modern Englishwomen and colored how food, labor, and women were understood. A juxtaposition of three types of primary sources allows for a comparative evaluation of gender roles, utilizing male-published guidebooks and treatises on proper female behavior, multimedia popular culture sources featuring the housewife trope, and the handwritten receipt books and letters of the newly-literate housewife herself to fully illuminate the figure of the woman in the kitchen. The work focuses particularly on the theoretical kitchen, rather than the physical, encompassing the knowledge of and ideas about housewifery in two parts, Recipes and Human Relations.

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