Marion Harland, a popular American novelist and writer of household manuals, wrote Common Sense in the Household, a very popular cookbook first published in Toronto in 1871. The cookbook aims to introduce new housewives to the art of effective or “common sense” cookery, offering recipes that range from simple to complex. As a newlywed, Harland received cookbooks from friends and family, and she wished to pass on her knowledge to other housewives in need. Readers were instructed on the importance of cooking for one’s family, based on the tried and true methods from a community of like-minded women. By sharing her knowledge, Harland comforted women and assured them they could give their households the best care possible.
In the 1870s, most Canadian women were expected to marry and raise a family. The transition from parental to marital home was daunting for some, especially when the average woman married in her early twenties. Cookbooks and domestic manuals from the time stressed the importance of providing spouses and children with a well-maintained home and delicious yet practical meals. This required women to spend considerable time in their homes, managing and completing domestic tasks such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child-rearing. Harland’s book endeavours to help young women by making them feel part of a larger community of housewives.
Book featured in this section: Harland, Marion. Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery. New York: Charles Scribner & Co. 1871. Gift of Una Abrahamson. Archival & Special Collections, University of Guelph Library.