Asenath Hatch Nicholson
by Anna Maria Howitt
February 24, 1792
|Died||May 15, 1855 (aged 63)|
|Occupation||teacher, boarding houses, writer|
|Known for||writing, philanthropy|
Asenath Hatch Nicholson (February 24, 1792 – May 15, 1855) was an American vegan, social observer and philanthropist. She wrote at first hand about the Great Hunger in Ireland in the 1840s. She observed the famine as she distributed bibles, food and clothing.
Nicholson was born in Chelsea in Vermont in 1792. Her family belonged to the Protestant Congregation Church and she was named after the biblical figure of the same name. She trained and became a successful teacher in her hometown before she married a man with three children and went to New York. She and her new husband, Mr. Nicholson, became interested in the diets recommended by Sylvester Graham. In the 1840s they opened boarding houses that offered the vegetarian diet prescribed by Graham. Nicholson also advocated exercise and occasional fasting. She published the first Graham recipes.
In May 1844, she left New York for Ireland and when she arrived she walked around Ireland visiting every County but one. She noted that people lacked work and they relied almost entirely on their crops of potatoes. She left for Scotland in August having observed Ireland just before the outbreak of the Irish Famine.
She returned in 1846 during the second crop failure which together with high unemployment was creating a national disaster. Nicholson was concerned that she would just have to witness the suffering but she wrote to the New-York Tribune and The Emancipator in New York and assistance from their readers was organised. In the following July five barrels of corn arrived from New York although it has been noted that on the same ship there was 50 barrels for the Central Relief Committee, but Nicholson preferred to go it alone.
In 1835, Nicholson authored the first American vegetarian cookbook, Nature's Own Book. Nicholson stated that "good bread, pure water, ripe fruit, and vegetables are my meat and drink exclusively." The book utilized some recipes with dairy, but Nicholson personally advocated against its use.
Nicholson also authored, Kitchen Philosophy for Vegetarians. The book was published by William Horsell in 1849. A review in the Vegetarian Advocate, noted that "butter and eggs are excluded" from the recipes. The Vegan Society have cited the book as the first vegan cookbook.