Tag Archive | Women

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Kennedy!

Today in American history…Jacqueline Bouvier was born on July 28, 1929 in Southhampton, New York. She married John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1953 and would eventually become one of our most beloved First Ladies.

Today in History…Ida Saxton McKinley was Born

Today in American history…Ida Saxton McKinley was born in 1847 in Canton, Ohio. She married William McKinley on January 25, 1871 and would eventually become the First Lady of Ohio and also the First Lady of the United States when her husband was sworn in as the 25th President on March 4, 1897 #POTUS #FLOTUS #TodayInHistory

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Today in American History…

President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom on June 2, 1886.

Frances Cleveland was the 1st First Lady to marry a serving US president at the White House and she was also the very first First Lady to give birth in the White House

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In the Kitchen Tonight…Poor Man’s Cake

My mother recently turned 80 years old and was reflecting on the types of food her mother once made for her.  Her fondest memory was of her mother making something called “Poor Man’s Cake.”  It was the war years and families couldn’t afford the luxuries of many items and had to learn to do without.  Poor Man’s Cake (also called “Depression Cake”) was a popular staple in many homes in this era and as a child, my mother loved it because it was all they could afford to make at home. My mother often comments on how they didn’t know they lacked for anything financially because there was just so much love in the house.

The cake was perfect because it used what most people had in their kitchen which were the common ingredients of: flour, sugar, spices and raisins.  Eggs were not included in the recipe.

When my mother was telling me the story about the cake her mother once made for her and how she hadn’t had it since childhood, I put my “internet sleuth” hat on and researched all about Poor Man’s Cake.  I was looking for an authentic recipe that had not been modernized too much and I came across a wonderful article about a man who made the cake using his mothers recipe and well…be still my heart! This is the recipe that I used to make the cake with right here.

As soon as I made the cake, I decided to surprise my mom by shipping it off to her so that she could enjoy it. She enjoyed the cake and even shared it with her neighbors.

The Historical Traveler Visits the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, DC

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Standing in front of Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass (Photo Credit: The Historical Homemaker)

My latest travels took me to the historic museum and home of Frederick Douglass, located in Southeast Washington D.C. The museum showcased a timeline of Frederick Douglass’ life which included his many accomplishments and the influences he had on the course of American history. In the museum, there is a wall of his famous quotations, original pieces of his work, and of course, you can visit his beloved home, Cedar Hill, where he spent the last years of his life.

He was born into bondage in 1818 in the vicinity of Talbot County, Maryland. At eight years old, he was sent to a plantation in Baltimore, Maryland and this is where the mistress of the plantation grew very fond of him and started teaching him how to read and write – a practice that was uncommon for the time period (and in some places in the US it was against the law).

Frederick Douglass said goodbye to Baltimore in 1838 when he was 20 years old – leaving his former life in bondage behind for a brand new life in New York. Anna Murray Douglass, his first wife, sold her personal belongings to purchase him a ticket to New York. He was still a slave, however, and he vowed not to marry Anna as a slave but only if he were a free man. It wasn’t until after he secured his freedom that he and Anna were married. It was in New York that he met with the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who recognized Frederick Douglass as a talented speaker. He was then enlisted to give speeches across the country to help educate people about the horrible atrocities of slavery. Being that he knew first had what being a slave entailed, he was able to give a personal perspective on slavery and his audience continued to grow and he became a very popular orator.

Some of the highlights of his life:

  • In 1845 wrote his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which became an international best seller.
  • Met with President Lincoln in 1863 to assist in enlisting African Americans in joining the Union troops. Did you know that the first two men he had inquired to enlist were his oldest two sons? Lewis Henry Douglass and Frederick Douglass Jr.
  • Frederick Douglass accepted the offer when President Hayes enlisted him to be the official US Marshall of Washington, D.C.
  • His first wife passed away in 1882 and he remarried two years afterwards to Helen Pitts. This caused controversy because she was a white woman and interracial marriages was not accepted socially (and in some States it was illegal)

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One of Frederick Douglass’ famous quotes on display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Original autobiography copy on display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Frederick Douglass’ Family Tree on Display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Exterior of Cedar Hill (I’m sitting on the left side of the porch) (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

On February 20, 1895, Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack at Cedar Hill, and was buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY with his first wife, Anna. Shortly after he passed, Helen Pitts Douglass established the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association to preserve his legacy as well as his impact on United States history. The association still maintains the legacy today.

Cedar Hill beautifully sits on top of a hill overlooking Southeast Washington D.C. The tours are free, during which you will learn about the history of the house and Frederick Douglass’ time while living there. Most of the items in the house are original pieces including the portraits, dining room furniture, and beds.

There are several rooms in the house including two rooms for entertaining and over half a dozen bedrooms. Although the entire house is rich with history, three rooms in particular I found most interesting: the first den, the dining room, one of the three guest rooms for women, and Frederick Douglass’ bedroom, all of which have original pieces from when he lived at the house.

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Entertaining room, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

 The first room used for informal entertaining of guests and showcases a piano in the left corner, a fireplace in the center of the room, and a bust of Frederick Douglass gifted to his family when he lived there. I learned in the tour that Frederick Douglass combined interior design with remembrance of American history, this being shown by the ball and chain tied around the curtains to the room symbolizing the roots of slavery in American history.

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Picture of ball and chain curtain ties, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

The dining room of Cedar Hill include pictures taken with other prominent Washington, DC people at the time, and original dining furniture. Frederick Douglass sat at the head of the table. This is indicated by the wheels on the bottom of the chair, which made it easier for him to stand up and speak, which he did frequently while entertaining his distinguished guests.

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Dining Room, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

 On the second floor of Cedar Hill, there are three bedrooms: three for women (including guests and one room for each of his wives) and three rooms for men (including the personal bedroom of Frederick Douglass). The guest room used for women included an original portrait of Susan B. Anthony, whom he was very fond of for her advocacy for women’s rights.

Many people don’t know that since 1848, Frederick Douglass was also an advocate for women’s right to vote.

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Women’s guest room with Susan B. Anthony portrait in the upper left side, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

  His bedroom was opposite of his first wife’s room in the upstairs hall. Frederick Douglass would use dumbbells to work out every morning after waking up to exercise and stay physically fit. Cedar Hill has these dumbbells and they can be seen on display by the foot of the chair in his room

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Frederick Douglass’ bedroom, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Chair with original Dumbbells, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

Two other pieces I found very interesting include his desk in his office and a trunk with his name on it, which was used on his many travels throughout the country and Europe.

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Frederick Douglass’ Trunk, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Frederick Douglass’ Office, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

Every room in Cedar Hill is beautiful in its unique way and the tour guides are very knowledgeable and will answer any questions you can think of while touring the house. Visiting Cedar Hill and learning about Frederick Douglass’ life and his huge impact on American History was truly a memorable experience for me, not to mention the wonderful scenic view from Cedar Hill.

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View from outside Cedar Hill (Phot Credit: The Historical Traveler)

Click here to plan your free visit to Cedar Hill and the Frederick Douglass Museum.

Today in American History…Nancy Hanks Lincoln was Born in 1784

Not much is known of Nancy Lincoln except for the most important aspect: she was Abraham Lincoln’s mother. There aren’t any pictures of her – only a depiction (made into a painting by Lloyd Ostendorf, February 12, 1963)

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(Image of Nancy Hanks Lincoln is courtesy of Lincoln Boyhood National Museum)

We do know that she was a warm, caring mother and that her son, Abraham Lincoln, loved her very much.  He was only nine years old when his mother died of milk sickness on October 5, 1818.  Throughout his life, he recalled the love of his mother and once said, “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”

William Herndon, Law partner with Abraham Lincoln and a close confidante, later wrote a book, Life of Lincoln, and described Nancy Hanks Lincoln most likely from Lincoln’s memories of his mother and those who knew her:

She was above the ordinary height in stature, weighed about 130 pounds, was slenderly built, and had much the appearance of one inclined to consumption. Her skin was dark; hair dark brown; eyes gray and small; forehead prominent; face sharp and angular, with a marked expression for melancholy which fixed itself in the memory of all who ever saw or knew her. Though her life was clouded by a spirit of sadness, she was in disposition amiable and generally cheerful.

 

Mary Todd Lincoln House – Lexington, Ky

Some years ago, my hubby and I had the chance to visit The Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky. What a treat it was to walk the same floors that Mrs Lincoln walked many years ago. To touch the same stair bannister that Mr Lincoln touched and walk into the same bedroom that he stayed in on his only visit to the house.

The home has many original family artifacts from the Todd family and also Mrs Lincoln’s personal items from her later years in life.

Mary Lincoln spent many happy girlhood years in this home with her family when she lived here from 1832 to 1839 – when she moved to Springfield, Illinois. She would then soon after meet the love of her life and as the saying goes…the rest is history.

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In the Kitchen Tonight…Onion Soup

I believe winter has officially arrived in Virginia! Tonight was the perfect night to make something wonderful to keep us warm – so why not make a pot of yummy soup 🙂 Tonight we stepped back in time and made something that was most likely enjoyed by the Washington family – how cool is that?

While researching recipes today I was looking for something that was not complex and had only a few ingredients. So – this recipe for Onion Soup was perfect and I found it on the Mount Vernon website.  It most likely was made in the Washington household and was a recipe included in the Hannah Glasse cookbook, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple,which was first published in 1747 and went on to become a best seller for a century after it was published.

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The recipe was very easy and I truly recommend you try it at home. If you have onions (a lot!), flour and broth? You are all set…here is the actual recipe:

Onion Soup

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and coarsely chopped (7 to 8 cups)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups water
2 cups Basic Beef Stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice bread, toasted and diced
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling, add the onions, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent them from sticking to the pan, until they are very soft and caramelized. Add the flour, stirring to coat the onions, and cook for about 1 minute.
  2. While onions are cooking, combine the water and stock, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the onions are ready, mix them into the hot stock, stirring until well combined.
  3. Pour a little of the hot stock into the skillet and stir, scraping up any onion particles that remain. Pour the stock into the stock and onions, and add the salt.
  4. Stir in the diced toast, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Combine the egg yolks and vinegar. Gradually blend 1/2 to 1 cup of the hot soup into the egg yolk-and-vinegar mixture, stirring constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling. Stir the mixture into the soup, and simmer for several minutes until the soup thickens just slightly, stirring constantly. Again, do not let the soup boil, or the egg yolks will curdle.
  6. Season with pepper and additional salt, if necessary, and serve hot.

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Of course we have our fun pictures from the kitchen tonight. Thank you to my ever so patient husband for cutting the soooooo many onions and for being my official taste tester.

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We started with the basic…

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My hubby chopped and chopped (and chopped!) 

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Fabulous onions 

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My ever so faithful cast iron skillet was wonderful tonight – here we are getting ready to saute the onions 

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caramelized onions – after about 15 minutes.  Then added flour for minute. 

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In a separate large pot – added the broth and water 

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The water, broth and onion combination 

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Chopped toast is added to the soup…

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along with egg yolks and vinegar 

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We have soup! 

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and my hubby loved it! Success! 

Today in History…Julia Ward Howe writes the lyrics to ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ in 1861

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on…

A song that has been sung over and over again in our Nations history and is truly timeless.  I remember as a child singing these words with my small hand over my heart while gazing at the American flag.  It has always been my favorite patriotic song – the words are so meaningful and beautiful.

In later years, the words to the song had a stronger meaning to me when I was at the Pentagon a week after the horrific day on September 11, 2001.  I attended a ceremony with thousands of others, as we all gathered to try to make sense of what had transpired the week before and to mourn our fallen comrades.  President and Mrs. George W. Bush were on the stage during the ceremony when this song was played and all began to sing the words, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”  and I will never forget the looks of sorrow and anguish on President and Mrs. Bush’s faces and how the tears streamed like waterfalls down their cheeks. This is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life and I felt that the words were relevant on that day as it was back in 1861 when Julia Ward Howe penned the famous lyrics.

Let’s just take a moment out of our day today and be thankful for our Republic – which is still marching on.  Regardless of what transpires in the world and within our own borders – we should cherish our country and one another and always remember the lyrics to this song that was penned many years ago by the wonderful Julia Ward Howe.

Listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5mmFPyDK_8