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TWU Libraries - Gateway to Women

From abundance to diets, from prohibition to war, TWU's collection of cookbooks richly illustrates decades of America's changing relationship with food. Collection includes books, vendors' pamphlets, recipe books dating from 1624, conduct manuals, and menus from around the world.


Culinary History and Cookbook Collections


It is not surprising the oldest books in the Woman’s Collection involve cooking. Practical concerns such as food preparation, preserving, and home remedies affect us all. What is more human than sharing what tastes good with each other. Regardless, of our ethnicity, race, or gender, human beings have one thing in common, they have to eat. While the audience for cookbooks rests with those in the kitchen, cookbooks reveal the influence of America’s marketplace and political reality. From abundance to diets, from prohibition to war, TWU's collection of cookbooks richly illustrates decades of America's changing relationship with food.


The Culinary History and Cookbook Collections at Texas Woman’s University began in 1960 with a significant private donation from Marion Somerville Church. Shortly following the acquisition of Mrs. Church’s private collection, the Woman’s Collection received Julie Benell’s, former food editor for the Dallas Morning News, personal library. Today, the collections include a broad representation of American and international cuisine as well as early European imprints from the 1600s.


The collections include books, vendors' pamphlets, recipe books dating from 1624, conduct and etiquette manuals, household management techniques, and menus from around the world.


Primarily donor sustained, the Woman’s Collection strengthens the collection with purchases of foodographies and culinary bibliographies. Over the years, gifts have increased our holdings to include:

  • 25,000+ cookbooks
  • 10,000+ pamphlets of promotional recipe leaflets
  • 1,800+ international menus

Cookbooks tell the story of communities and their people. They document society’s relationship with food and how culture influences our understanding of one another. Today, cookbooks are considered the quintessential history book. How better to learn how pop culture, politics, education, and religion influence our society than through food.


The Woman’s Collection continues to collect titles to add to its holdings. Please contact us anytime to schedule a tour, to donate, or learn more about the history of food.

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