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ELIZA LESLIE (1787 – 1858)

“Our Contributors,” in Godey’s Lady’s Book 32 (1846): 1-2, frontispiece.

ELIZA LESLIE (1787 – 1858)

Born in Philadelphia, Eliza Leslie spent much of her childhood in London, where her father ran an export business. Upon returning to the States in 1799, her father discovered that his business partners had lost money during his absence, and her mother opened a boarding house to keep the family financially solvent. Though she received her only formal education in sewing and cooking classes, she read and wrote avidly, writing in later years that "the dream of my childhood [was] one day seeing my name in print." Her literary career began in earnest when she published one of the earliest American cookbooks, Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats by "a Lady of Philadelphia" in 1828.

The success of her stories in children's books and women's magazines encouraged her to publish under her own name rather than demurely eschewing public recognition, and with the appearance of American Girl's Book in 1831 she became known as "Miss Leslie." She produced most of her income through her books on domestic management, volumes such as Miss Leslie's Behavior Book, The House Book, and Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book. In an era of unprecedented familial dispersal, young wives separated by hundreds of miles from the guidance of their mothers and sisters looked to treatises like Miss Leslie's for advice on cooking, etiquette, and childrearing.

During the final decade of her life, Eliza Leslie took up residence at the United States Hotel, where she became something of a Philadelphia institution. Holding court among the hotel guests, she sought out visiting celebrities and was venerated in return by her admiring readers.

Other portraits appear in:

Sarah J. Hale, ed. Woman’s Record (1853), p. 721; also 1855 ed.

Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck, eds. Cyclopaedia of American Literature (1855), vol. 2, p. 87.



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