Mary Randolph, the author of the first American regional cookbook, was born at Ampthill plantation, where DuPont's Spruance Plant now stands (the house itself was later moved to a new location in the city of Richmond). Her work transformed cooking and household management in ways that continue to influence chefs and domestic supervisors today.
Backstory and Context
Born at Ampthill, her family's Chesterfield County plantation, Mary Randolph learned how to run an orderly household. She married her cousin, David Meade Randolph, of Chesterfield County, in December 1780. Moldavia, their Richmond home, became a center of Federalist Party social activity. Financial reversals led Randolph in 1808 to open a Richmond boarding house, where she provided accommodations and excellent meals to an elite clientele. Later the Randolphs moved to Washington, D.C., where Mary Randolph began to compile a housekeeping book that provided management hints; directions for preparing sauces, vegetables, preserves, puddings, ice creams, soups, breads, meats, beverages, and cleaning products; and instructions on crafting a home refrigerator.
According to Randolph, "The prosperity and happiness of a family depend greatly on the order and regularity established in it." She was revising The Virginia House-Wife for a third edition at the time of her death. Randolph's younger sister Virginia Randolph Cary wrote the influential Letters on Female Character, Addressed to a Young Lady, on the Death of Her Mother (1828), the first advice book written by a southern woman for the women of her region.
Reprinted with permission of the Library of Virginia.