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The Food Section

Newspaper Women and the Culinary Community

Kimberly Wilmot Voss

Food blogs are everywhere today but for generations, information and opinions about food were found in the food sections of newspapers in communities large and small. Until the early 1970s, these sections were housed in the women’s pages of newspapers—where women could hold an authoritative voice. The food editors—often a mix of trained journalist and home economist—reported on everything from nutrition news to features on the new chef in town. They wrote recipes and solicited ideas from readers. The sections reflected the trends of the time and the cooks of the community. The editors were local celebrities, judging cooking contests and getting calls at home about how to prepare a Thanksgiving turkey. They were consumer advocates and reporters for food safety and nutrition. They helped make James Beard and Julia Child household names as the editors wrote about their television appearances and reviewed their cookbooks.

These food editors laid the foundation for the food community that Nora Ephron described in her classic 1968 essay, “The Food Establishment,” and eventually led to the food communities of today. Included in the chapters are profiles of such food editors as Jane Nickerson, Jeanne Voltz, and Ruth Ellen Church, who were unheralded pioneers in the field, as well as Cecily Brownstone, Poppy Cannon, and Clementine Paddleford, who are well known today; an analysis of their work demonstrates changes in the country’s culinary history. The book concludes with a look at how the women’s pages folded at the same time that home economics saw its field transformed and with thoughts about the foundation that these women laid for the food journalism of today.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 252Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-2720-0 • Hardback • April 2014 • $44.00 • (£29.95)
978-1-4422-2721-7 • eBook • April 2014 • $41.00 • (£27.95)
Kimberly Wilmot Voss is associate professor and area coordinator of journalism at the Nicholson School of Communication, University of Central Florida.

Kimberly is the first recipient of the Association of Food Journalists' Carol DeMasters Service to Food Journalism Award. More information on the award is available at: http://www.afjonline.com/news-display.cfm?nid=39
1: The Food Journalism Myth, History of Food Sections & Newspaper Food Editors
2: World War II, the Food Establishment & Food Editors’ Meetings
3: The Role of Advertising, Consumer News & Ethics
4: Cookbooks, Exchanging Recipes & Competitive Cooking
5: Test Kitchens, Home Economics & Food Journalism
6: Restaurant Reviewing, An Authoritative Voice & Women’s Roles
7: Death of the Women’s Pages, Changing Industry & the Women Forgotten
Appendix: Editors List
Though James Beard and Craig Claiborne were widely known in food-writing circles, their female contemporaries went largely unrecognized. Voss’s book aims hopes to rectify this by shedding light on the contributions by women editors in the food section of newspapers in the United States from the 1940s through the ‘70s, a time 'when food was changing significantly due to developments in technology and a changing American palate.' Critics argue that during this time the food sections of newspapers were just recipes, but these food editors didn’t merely stick to recipes. They wrote 'about local stores, local restaurants, and local cooks.' They reported on national food news as well, on poverty, nutrition, health standards, and government policies. They were particularly adept at connecting with their audiences. For instance, 'exchange columns in which readers requested recipes were some of the most common, popular, and long-lasting features of the newspapers acting as a kind of early social media,' Voss points out. The author occasionally veers into deeper components of the topic, such as the advent of food industry conferences for journalist, giving the book a more specialized, academic tilt, which may deter readers with a general interest. All and all, Voss offers a cogent examination of remarkable female journalists who served 'an important role for their communities' over the years.
Publishers Weekly

This book is for anyone interested in the way the 'women's pages' of the newspaper helped form people's relationship to food and its consumption. Voss points out that many people did not even consider women who wrote for the women's pages journalists. The author traces the history of food journalism and its role in consumer activism, the popularization of cookbooks of all kinds, and restaurant reviewers. Since women do most of the purchasing and cooking of food, they often turned to the newspaper for advice. During WW II when rationing was so strict, the newspaper and its women food writers became essential to the battle being waged on the home front. Later, food safety and nutrition became important topics for these writers. Voss emphasizes that the women who wrote those sections were trained journalists and home economists. In the 1970s, feminists began to view the women's sections as journalistic ghettos. Today, the food section is written by either women or men, and it is aimed at the whole family. The author's thorough research and documentation helps readers trace the evolution of this culturally significant section of the newspaper. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, researchers/faculty, and professionals/practitioners.

The usual view of newspaper food sections and the women invariably who produced them has been what these represented 'soft news' and were hardly worth serious consideration. Kimberly Wilmot Voss, in her book, The Food Section: Newspaper Women and the Culinary Community, addresses this dismissive relegation and stands it on its head. She does this by providing a well-researched and in-depth analysis of the complex history and journalistic and cultural significance of food sections and the women responsible for them. Her examination is guided by determining what the actual content of food sections was during the 1940s through the 1970s and by identifying the women who were responsible for this content. Her research goes far to bring the food section and these women the recognition they deserve. . . .Voss has helped make the historical record of journalism’s practice more complete by informing us of the significant and valuable contributions of those whose names and work might otherwise have remained overlooked.
American Journalism: A Media History Journal

This brilliantly researched and supported book exposing the truth of early 20th-century newspapers' 'women's sections' could have been a diatribe. Instead, it's a charming and entertaining meet-and-greet with some of the most splendidly accomplished women you'll ever admire.
Orlando Weekly

In The Food Section: Newspaper Women and the Culinary Community, Kimberly Voss explores the work of women covering the 'food beat' from 1945 to 1975, when the food sections were housed in the 'women’s pages' of the daily paper and that was the only section where women could have an authoritative voice. ... This is widely considered the first book to really explore regional cuisine in the United States. ... Voss examines the origins of food journalism in the U.S., the rise of consumer activism, home economics, and the restaurant reviewer as journalist. She has written an excellent book that challenges popular notions of this often-misunderstood era in culinary journalism and demonstrates that food history for home cooks is much more complex than previously described.
Edible New Orleans

A meticulously researched book, The Food Section explores and elevates the work of women who covered the food beat. Tracking food coverage from 1945-1975, Kimberly Wilmot Voss highlights contributions by culinary celebrities such as Julia Child, as well as often-forgotten women who employed pen names in print media, published cookbooks, and wrote restaurant reviews.
Jan Whitt, University of Colorado Boulder

This book adds to the record of women's experience in newspaper journalism by giving serious scholarly attention to the food sections of major newspapers during the heart of the 20th century. The author points out the relationship between the study of home economics and journalism education aimed at women. It shows that food editors took their work seriously and created rapport with their readers that made food sections resemble today's social media.
Maurine H. Beasley, University of Maryland College Park

What’s more important than food? Arguably, very little. Yet in the heyday of 20th-century newspaper journalism, the women who wrote about food were often marginalized by colleagues who valued “hard news” over features and who discounted “the food section” as a gendered newsroom ghetto. Some were even maligned by a U.S. senator, who accused them of pandering to advertisers. In this thoroughly researched book, Kimberly Wilmot Voss reintroduces us to the community of female food editors who stood up for journalistic ethics and high standards. Offering a perspective that asks readers to rethink assumptions about gender and power in journalism, she reminds those of us living in the Internet age of a time when food journalism was local, personal, and sometimes adventurous.
Jane Marcellus, author of Business Girls and Two-Job Wives: Emerging Media Stereotypes of Employed Women

• Commended, Orlando Weekly's Florida-centric books published in 2014