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Just Desserts

"Just Desserts" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

This year marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Washington—a feat only made possible by the collaborative efforts of many dedicated people of every walk of life and political stripe. In this spirit, we present our seventh broadside in the Dead Feminists series, Just Desserts.

Washington Women's Cookbook

Through our research at the Washington State Library, we discovered that our state’s suffrage movement had many leaders, rather than one prominent figurehead. We also learned that there was so much head-butting, personality-clashing and partisan in-fighting going on within the organizations involved (Mesdames Hutton and DeVoe, I’m looking at you!) that it would be impossible to tell the whole story in one letterpress poster. So instead of quoting a single historical feminist, we cited a collaborative publication—the Washington Women’s Cook Book, published in 1908-1909 for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition—and featured four women symbolic of the movement: May Arkwright Hutton, Bernice Sapp, Cora Smith Eaton, and Emma Smith DeVoe. The quote:

“Are not our desserts and salads things of beauty and the joy of the moment?”

The book was a clever piece of propaganda that operated on the principle that the way to a man’s heart—or vote—is through his stomach. All those jellied centerpieces and whimsical soufflés must have done the trick—the following year, women got the vote.

Vintage jellies

And for my part, the quote turned me into an almost-literal kid in a candy store; the design was just begging for elaborate confections and candy-coated typography. At first, though, I was turned off by the idea of having to draw salads (I wanted more ice cream!), until Jessica read off a litany of aspic salad and gelatin dessert recipes from the book. That’s when the light bulb turned on: Jell-o salad! The decade-plus I spent in the Midwest was about to serve me well.

Vintage jellies

Turns out that Jell-o fit right into the turn-of-the-century theme: molded gelatin desserts were a Victorian favorite, and the name “Jell-o” was first coined in 1897 (and if you look carefully, the “J” from the original Jell-o box makes a cameo in the print). There seemed to be no end of antique recipes, advertisements and illustrations at my disposal.

Vintage jellies

I might be horrified by the idea of eating gelatin salads, but drawing them was the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time. Zooey and I each spent hours researching vintage Jell-o molds—probably more for the pure fascination than for the value of the reference material.

For the sweets portion of our little menu, I turned to an old favorite for inspiration: Andy Warhol.

"Wild Raspberries" by Andy Warhol

Forget what you know about Campbell’s soup cans or Elvis portraits; Andy got his start as an illustrator specializing in fashion and food. In 1959 he illustrated a spoof cookbook called Wild Raspberries (it’s been on my shelf since high school, and I finally found a direct use for it!), filled with ridiculous “gourmet” recipes for things like “A&P Surprise” (those of you in New England will get that one) and “Seared Roebuck.”

"Wild Raspberries" by Andy Warhol

The illustrations are fantastic (and the polar opposite of my style), but the thing that really drew me in was the lettering. Andy had his mother, Julia Warhola, write all of the text of his early illustrations in her shaky, school-girl script. Mrs. Warhola spoke little to no English, and simply copied her son’s notes letter-for-letter, so the text in Wild Raspberries has charming errors and misspellings throughout.

Detail of "Just Desserts" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

I loved the down-to-earth quality of Mrs. Warhola’s cursive, so I wrote a recipe from the Washington Women’s Cook Book along the border of the broadside in a similar hand (though to warn you, it’s a recipe I wouldn’t recommend trying!).

Detail of "Just Desserts" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring and Andy Warhol reference

And of course, I couldn’t do without a little ice cream homage.

Detail of "Just Desserts" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Like The Curie Cure, this piece is printed in three colors—although the three we chose let us create many more. Our color scheme allowed us to print in a similar fashion to commercial printing, where a minimum of colors (CMYK—cyan, magenta, yellow, black) are layered to create a full-color image. Our layering of translucent pink, blue and yellow ink allowed us to create a full rainbow and a convincing depiction of foreign objects floating in jelly.

Detail of "Just Desserts" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Heaps of thanks to everyone who came to our talk at the State Library the other night, despite lousy weather and rush-hour traffic—we had a tremendous turnout, and a huge show of support for our state’s oldest cultural institution.

One more thing: three cheers for the incredible staff at the Washington State Library (many of whom are among those whose jobs have been cut and will end very soon) who made our talk and this very piece possible. Because we couldn’t have done it without them, we have donated a portion of our proceeds to support the State Library’s collections.

After all, it’s about preserving (in jelly?) that joy of the moment for everyone to share, right?

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Just Desserts: No. 7 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 100
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, each piece is printed on archival, 100% rag, recycled paper, and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
In 1909 suffragists saw an opportunity to forward their cause in Seattle at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (AYP) Exposition. The Washington Equal Suffrage Association (WESA), led by president Emma Smith DeVoe, provided an AYP exhibition on the importance of women’s right to vote and hosted Women’s Days, distributing pamphlets alongside displays of domesticity. WESA treasurer Dr. Cora Smith Eaton, joined The Mountaineers’ AYP expedition to climb Mt. Rainier and placed a “Votes for Women” banner at the summit. Suffragists from eastern Washington, led by May Arkwright Hutton, came by the trainload to attend the AYP and WESA’s National Convention. Many of the details—from ideological clashes to victories—were archived at the Washington State Library, thanks to Bernice Sapp.

Women from around the country also contributed to the Washington Women’s Cook Book, published to sell at the AYP. Filled with recipes, domestic advice and inspirational suffragist quotes, it reassured male voters that the women in their lives would continue homemaking once they had the right to vote: “Give us the vote and we will cook, the better for a wide outlook.” Compiled by Linda Deziah Jennings, the preface extolled the virtues of making beautiful things, and the simple joy of desserts and salads. Suffragists in Washington worked through differences in personalities, social backgrounds and political parties to create a winning recipe, gaining their right to vote in 1910.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring with gratitude to allthe cooks. 100 copies were printed by hand at Springtide Press in Tacoma. February 2010

UPDATE: poster is sold out. Reproduction postcards available in the Dead Feminists shop!

Detail of "Just Desserts" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring