Suffragette Oatmeal Gems

Updated: Jul 2

This week, we are making another recipe from The Woman Suffrage Cook Book (1886.) In honor of the Union County Bicentennial, the Women's Vote Centennial and the Fourth of July holiday, we are continuing our research on the Women's Suffrage Movement in Union County. For general information on the movement in Union County, please see our previous post.

While most of us are familiar with names like Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Susan B. Anthony, there were many other influential leaders in the Women's Suffrage Movement. Union County native Kathryn Sellers was one of these women. The first female federal judge in U.S. history, Judge Sellers worked her way up from a low-paying position at the Department of Agriculture to a highly skilled position at the U.S. Weather Bureau. Her talent did not go unrecognized, and she was hired by the U.S. State Department to organize their massive international law collection. Again, she was acknowledged for her great skill and was hired by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to continue her work in international law. During this time, she put herself through law school, eventually obtained her master's degree and became a law professor. President Woodrow Wilson received pressure to name a female as a federal judge, so he nominated Sellers. Resistance to a female holding the position was based on anything from a lack of physical strength to fear of the 'offensive' subject matter that may come before a judge in federal court. Some of those in favor of her nomination were approving of it only to prove a woman would fail in the position. Sellers was determined to prove them wrong and became the first female federal judge on October 15, 1918. In the midst of all her successes, Sellers was also an officer in the Equal Franchise League and President of the Equal Suffrage League.

A little more about Kathryn Sellers' Union County connection: She was born in 1870 in Taylor Township/Broadway and moved to Marysville. She graduated from Marysville High School in 1889. While she had moved to Washington D.C. for her job at the Department of Agriculture, she was buried in Marysville's Oakdale Cemetery upon her death in 1939.

This week's recipe is for Oatmeal Gems. "Gems" are an old-fashioned baked good similar to a small cake or muffin baked in cast iron. Some notes on the recipe: "Saleratus" was the precursor to baking soda. To substitute in baking soda, add just a little extra - 1 1/4 teaspoons. Gem pans were definitely a thing in the 19th century, but a greased cupcake tin filled about halfway with batter works just fine as a modern equivalent. Baking in a wood-fired oven was certainly different than a modern electric or gas stove! We baked our gems for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees.

Two-packs of these little gems will be for sale for $3 at our farm market shed July 4 12:30-2:30 pm and July 5 12:30-6:00 pm. Proceeds benefit the Union County Historical Society. Don't forget to bring your Union County Bicentennial Passport to collect your stamp!


Thanks to Union County Historical Society President Robert Parrott for sharing information on Judge Kathryn Sellers.

The Woman Suffrage Cook Book can be purchased here.

Kathryn Sellers photo from Wikipedia.

The antique gem pan can be purchased on Etsy.

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