The Frugal Housewife

Comments Off on The Frugal Housewife | November 27, 2015

Cover art from Andrews McMeel Publishing's 2013 printing

Cover art from Andrews McMeel Publishing’s 2013 printing

Background | View Original Cookbook

Lydia Maria Child was born in 1802 in Massachusetts as Lydia Francis. From a young age, she found passion for the equal rights movements for Native Americans, slaves and women. As an avid abolitionist and women’s rights activist, she used her position as a popular author to create awareness and spread the importance of her viewpoints. At 22, her first book Hobomok, A Tale of Early Times was published. She captivated her audience with a scandalous tale of interracial marriage set in the traditional Puritan age. She was able to use her writing as a medium to spread her progressive ideas in a discreet manner during a time when they were not widely accepted.

By the time she married, she was a successful and well-off author. She married David Lee Child a young lawyer, newspaperman, and aspiring politician. Lydia Maria Child was the primary bread winner in her marriage, as her husband was in and out of jail for crimes such as liable. However, He gave her the opportunity to take over the literary column of the Massachusetts Journal which allowed her more freedom to discuss the primary issues she was passionate about.

The Frugal Housewife, Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy was first published in 1829. The book went through at least 35 printings in the following 21 years. In 1832, with the eighth printing, the name was changed to The American Frugal Housewife since a similar title had previously been published in England.

Unlike previous cookbooks that had been published in America, The Frugal Housewife was written with middle and lower class women as the intended audience. Most cookbooks before Child’s assumed that the women using it would have house servants. Child removed this assumption to make her cookbook more accessible to a wider audience of young women, including those travelling west. By doing this, Child created a new brand of cookbook. Her cookbook was more accessible than any before it. She was able to influence the idea of what it meant to be American and an American wife and woman. She wanted being American to be associated with being practical and economical. Over the 21 years that The Frugal Housewife was in publication, it was read by almost every American woman. Child was viewed as a wise Aunt to most young women in America. As a strong-willed, self-motivated, independent woman, Child was helping to shape movements that went beyond her lifetime.

Works Cited

“The Frugal Housewife.” Feeding America. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2015. <>

Clifford, Deborah P. “Lydia Maria Child.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015. <>

Daley, Bill. “Lydia Maria Child’s ‘Frugal Housewife’ the Must-read Book of Its Day.” The Chicago Tribune, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 03 Dec. 2015. <>

Recipes from The Frugal Housewife