Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Getting To Know Jennie June

Jane Croly Cunningham (a.k.a. Jennie June) was born on December 19, 1829 in Leicestershire, England. Her family came to the United States in 1841. Jane finished her childhood in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Wappinger's Falls, New York. She received her early education by reading widely in her father's library. She lived and kept house for a time for her brother, a Congregationalist minister in Worcester, Massachusetts. She taught school there and wrote a semi-monthly newspaper for her brother's congregation. There's a wonderfully detailed biography about Jane Croly at Feeding America.

"Casting Pearls Before Swine"

I would like to share some morsels of information I found about the life of Jennie June beginning with this article published in the New York Times on November 10, 1866

"An unpretending volume of 350 pages puts down a great number of recipes and directions for the furnishing of our tables. We need not remind readers that Americans seldom cook, they seldom eat, they forge, or gobble, or swallow, and leave the consequences to the family doctor. Mrs. Croly thrusts much common sense into her crisp paragraphs, and if the dyspeptic world would listen and obey, it would be well. It is really surprising to know how many few women in America know anything of cooking...If the genial Jenny succeeds in attracting the attention of housekeepers she will be fortunate; but the chances are that (we speak in a Pickwickian sense,) she is casting pearls before the swine."
Sadly, I don't have a copy of Jennie June's American Cookery Book (the only cookbook she ever wrote:) but, I did find her suggestions for a Christmas Dinner and Jennie June's Brown Fricassee Chicken at epicurious. Also, the Baking History Blog has a deliciously sounding recipe for Apple Bread from the original recipe by Jane Cunningham Croly. Baking History just recently added (10/08) a recipe for Jane Croley's Potato Pie which looks scrumptiously easy to prepare. I should also note, I am including in the resource section of this page, a place where you might be able to "procure" a copy of the facsimile edition.
Mrs. Croly's pen name of "Jenny June" was derived from a little poem by Benjamin F. Taylor that was sent to her, by her pastor, in Poughkeepsie when she was about twelve years old with the name underlined, because, he said, " You are the Juniest little girl I know." Mrs. Croly called the first Woman's Congress in New York in 1856, and also the second, in 1869, and in 1868 founded the Sorosis, and was its president until 1870, and again from 1876 till 1886. source

Parlor & Side-walk Gossip

As noted, Jane Croly was an author. She was also a fine journalist with a national reputation. In 1854, at age 25, she went to New York City in search of work. The New York Tribune accepted her first article, and she began working as a journalist for the New York Sunday Times and eventually wrote a women's column called Parlor and Side-walk Gossip. She married David G. Croly, a reporter for the New York Herald on Valentine's Day, in 1856. In 1855, she joined the staff of the New York Tribune and soon became one of the first women in the United States to write a syndicated column. After she had been banned admittance to a banquet honoring Charles Dickens in 1868 at the all-male New York Press Club simply because they were women, she became determined to organize a club for women only. The name initially chosen for the club was Sorosis. (Sorosis kind of fruit in which many flowers are united, as in a pineapple.) The work of Sorosis was "municipal housekeeping." In order to become a member of Sorosis, women had to be invited, pass inspection, take a loyalty oath, and pay an initiation fee of five dollars. Sorosis was one of the most influential organizations for women in late-nineteenth-century America. Joining Jane Croly in founding Sorosis were other notable women of the period. The organizational meeting at Delmonico's restaurant in New York City was itself a challenge to socially acceptable behavior. Not only was it deemed improper for women to be seen in public places without a male escort, many found it to be a "negative philosophical change" as shown in the many illustrated journals of the time.
George William Curtis, the editor of Harper's Weekly, was a vocal advocate of women's rights and a vice-president of the American Woman's Suffrage Association. However, the cartoons in his publication, like this featured one, often presented women's rights and women's organizations in a light-hearted manner. The explicit intention of Croly and Sorosis was, on the contrary, to expand the acceptable sphere of women, not to nullify their role in the home.

In Boston, Julia Ward Howe had helped organize the New England Women's Club also in 1868. source

The New England Women's Club, one of the oldest women's clubs in the United States, had its beginnings in February 1868 at a meeting at the house of Dr. Harriot K. Hunt. The first public meeting, which officially initiated the life of the club, was held on May 30, 1868. Caroline M. Severance (the first president) and Julia Ward Howe explained the purposes of the club as providing a meeting-place for women outside their homes, giving them new knowledge and inspiration for their work at home and outside, and uniting their efforts in various social causes. source
When her husband became ill in 1879, Jane Croly financially supported her family (including four children) through her work as a journalist, editor, and author. She wrote for various New York newspapers under the pseudonym Jennie June. From 1860 to 1887 she edited Demorest's Quarterly Mirror of Fashion and later was part owner of Godey's Lady's Book. She specialized in women's features and was among the first journalists who syndicated their articles. After her husband's death in 1889, she took a position as professor of journalism and literature at Rutgers University, becoming the first American woman to teach news writing.
Some 20 years after beginning Sorosis, she proposed a conference in New York that brought together delegates from 61 women's clubs. The fruit of her labor was formed into the constitution of The General Federation of Women's Clubs founded in 1890. Individually, the clubs were under the authority of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. They would investigate conditions of industrial and educational establishments and then the clubs would send representatives to try to fix the problems. In 1898, she wrote The History of the Woman's Club Movement in America.
Middle-class women, who had many priorities at home, started these women's clubs and civic associations for the benefit of everyone...As the nineteenth-century was coming to an end, middle-class women began to realize that many of their household duties were becoming obsolete. The birth rate of this group of women had lowered and there were so many immigrants that almost every household had a servant. These factors, along with new technologies of factory made goods and appliances left women with a lot less to do. With this extra time, many of them joined newly-formed women's clubs. The majority of these clubs were formed between 1860 and 1900. Their main goal was to bring middle-class women into the "economic mainstream"source

The Woman

At the time of life when people recognize the fact that their forces are waning, and that a well-earned period of rest has arrived, Mrs. Croly set for herself the last task of her busy life. She felt she had something to tell about the success of her great idea, her message to women, and she wrote the "History of the Woman's Club Movement in America," a volume containing eleven hundred and eighty pages, which told the story of nearly all the clubs in the General Federation. source
"It is the moral influence of a training for self-support. Ignorance and idleness lead to vice and crime; and a Technical Training School would do more to remedy the Social Evil and raise the standard of morals than all other influences combined. The fact that work is the great purifier is what I wish could have been embodied in the plan presented." Jane Croly Cunningham

For obvious reason, I could go on and on about the dedicated life of Jane Croly Cunningham. However, the many shimmering speeches given after her death on December 23, 1901 really shine a light on the Memories of Jane Cunningham Croly.

1. National Women's Hall of Fame
2. Jennie June
3. Facsimile Edition
4. Jane Croly @ Smithsonian Libraries
5. Harvard University Library
6. National Women's History Museum


  1. I love the premise of your blog, and enjoyed reading what you have written so far. Thanks for your link to mine as well!
    I actually just published another recipe from Jennie June's cook book (a lemon cake)
    manuela (Baking History)

  2. Thank you so much for your kindness. I hope you won't mind if I add your link to my Entremets list. Yours, is such a warm place to visit one feels like they have arrived at an easy chair in the sky.

  3. Thank you so much Louise. I added yours to my blogroll, I'll visit often!


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise