Archive for January, 2017

Ask a Museum Educator

January 28th, 2017

During February and March bring a Museum Educator into your classroom and offer your students a glimpse into how museums bring history to life. The National Women’s History Museum is offering free 15 minute electronic field trips for 4th through 11th grade classes. In February the fieldtrips will focus on African American women and the Civil Rights Movement. Then in March the focus will shift to women in STEM. To learn more about these electronic fieldtrips or to register visit

The Nation’s Hostess

January 19th, 2017

From the days of Martha Washington through to modern times, Americans have seen their First Lady as the epitome of American hospitality. The title ‘First Lady’ did not officially appear until sometime in the middle 19th century. Records indicate it was first used in print in the Illustrated Newspaper in reference to Harriet Lane, the niece to the nation’s only bachelor president, James Buchanan. From the outset, the role assigned to the wife of the president or the female relatives closest to the nation’s leader has always been based on being hostess to the nation and the world.

With an oversized emphasis on welcoming guests to the nation’s house, the food, recipes and menus that originated from the White House were often the focus of many magazines and news articles. And can be an important mirror into the time period and lives of the women who took on the role as First Lady.

Through the years, some women relished this public role more than others. While Washington did not live in the White House, she managed the first two presidential homes in New York and Philadelphia. One of her most famous recipes was the Great Cake, famous during the Colonial Era. They were a common dessert in this period and tended to be very large, as reflected by the list of ingredients that varied according to the version of the recipe used.

Martha Washington’s Recipe for Great Black Cake

Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to froth.

Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it asSpoon full at a time till it is well work’d.

Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner

Then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit.

Two hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine a and some fresh brandy. Five and a half hours will bake it.


Eleanor Roosevelt was not much of a cook but she was concerned about the health of Americans. Roosevelt became intrigued by the innovations underway at the Home Economics Department of Cornell University, which under Ellen Swallow Richards, had adopted a very scientific approach to homemaking. According to the New Yorker, Roosevelt “wanted White House meals to set the right example for a struggling populace.” With the country in the midst of the Great Depression, Roosevelt was very conscious of sharing recipes that displayed frugality. She commissioned low-cost menus from the home economics faculty at Cornell. Many of the White House meals during this time were simple and from some descriptions too bland. The common saying at the time was if you’re invited to the White House for dinner, eat before you go.

Gumbo Z’Herbes (Cheapest Soup)

2 tablespoons lard

2 tablespoons flour

1 bunch each of spinach, mustard greens, green cabbage, beet tops, watercress, radishes, chopped onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, green onion top, salt, pepper, red pepper pod or drop of Tabasco. Bacon strip, veal or port brisket, or hambone.

Wash well the greens, bacon strip, hot water and boil well. Drain off water and save it. Fry meat in one tablespoon lard, chopping up the while with the greens with the onion and seasoning. Take out the meat and fry the greens, stirring. When well fried, all the flour, stir. Season well. Add meat and the treasured water of the boiled greens; leave all to simmer for an hour or so.



A close confidante to her husband, Claudia Alta ‘Lady Bird’ Johnson entertained with a purpose. She developed camaraderie with the wives of Cabinet members, aides and Congressional leaders. She entered the White House at a time of unrest for the nation, but is said to have remained close to former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Her direct interactions with Congress broke ground for her role.

Lady Bird Johnson Cheese Wafers

1 Cup Margarine or Soft Butter

2 Cups Flour

8 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Grated

1 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper

1/2 Tsp Salt

2 Cups Rice Krispies Cereal

Cut butter into flour, add cheese and seasonings, fold in cereal. Drop by small rounds on ungreased cookie sheet and flatten with a spoon.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, depending oven (careful not to get too brown). Yields approximately 5 dozen wafers.

Cheese Wafers are a *ranch staple* which are served on all occasions: with salads, with cocktails, etc., or just when one of the grandchildren gets the *munchies!*

This spring the National Women’s History Museum is creating a recipe book with a recipe from each First Lady’s time. The book will be a thank you gift to anyone who donates at least $100 to the museum and references it on their donation form. To donate now, click here and select email/social media as option for why you are making this donation.