Wilcox, Estelle Woods
Estelle Woods Wilcox grew up in Marysville, Ohio (colloquially known as the Buckeye State.) In 1870 she graduated from the Female College of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, giving a graduation speech on woman suffrage. After working as a cashier in the Marysville bank for several years, she was married in 1874 to Alfred Gould Wilcox, a newspaperman. Before moving to Minneapolis, Minnesota that same year, where her husband managed the Minneapolis Daily Tribune, Wilcox had agreed to compile a charity cookbook for the women of the Marysville First Congregational Church. Working from Minneapolis, Wilcox organized and edited the recipes that Marysville women sent her, and also wrote the introductory essays to the chapters. The book was published in 1876, appropriately titled The Centennial Buckeye Cook Book. Though J.H. Shearer and Son of Marysville were the first publishers, the actual printing was done by the Daily Tribune's outfit, the Tribune Printers, Engravers and Binders of Minneapolis. The book raised two thousand dollars, which helped the First Congregational Church build a new parsonage.
Estelle Wilcox saw an opportunity to capitalize on her efforts and her situation, and bought the copyright to the book. She and husband formed the Buckeye Publishing Company, and published a second edition in 1877, retitled Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping (included in this collection.) They also arranged for a concurrent edition to be published in Ohio by the United Brethren Publishing House in Dayton, and the combined sales of both books reached twenty-two thousand. The same year, the Buckeye Publishing Company started a new illustrated monthly magazine entitled The Housekeeper. A domestic advice magazine, it not only addressed typical household concerns, but also encouraged women to earn income outside the home. It wrote about employment opportunities for women, and both the cookbook and the magazine employed women as salespeople. Within a decade, The Housekeeper reached a circulation of 120,000. It succeeded in reinforcing sales of the cookbook by accepting recipes from readers, which were used to update Buckeye Cookery and generate publicity for the new editions. Wilcox worked at the magazine until 1913, when it merged with Ladies' World to form Ladies' World and Housekeeper.
Buckeye Cookery went through thirty-two editions, the last in 1905, by which time sales totaled over one million copies. Wilcox published a German edition, a revised version for Southern readers, entitled The Dixie Cookbook, and two other revisions - The New Practical Housekeeping (1890) and The Housekeeper Cook Book (1894). Wilcox, who lived well into the twentieth century, was responsible for one of the most popular cookbooks of the nineteenth century. She passed away in 1943, at nearly ninety-five years old.
- DuSablon, Mary Anna, America's Collectible Cookbooks. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1994.
- Wilcox, Estelle Woods, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping. Minneapolis, MN: Buckeye Publishing Co., 1877.
- ----------, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping. With an Introduction by Virginia M. Westbrook. Reprint of the 1880 Minneapolis edition. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1988.
Written by Anne-Marie Rachman