A Recipe for Success: Lizzie Kander and her Cookbook

By Bob Kann

Paperback: $12.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-373-2

144 pages, 78 photos and illus., 3 maps, 7 x 9"


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"A Recipe for Success: Lizzie Kander and her Cookbook" celebrates the life of Milwaukee's early 20th-century culinary wonder. This new addition to the Badger Biographies series will introduce young readers to a remarkable young woman who made a difference in the lives of the early immigrants in Wisconsin. Kander originally created "The Settlement Cookbook" to assist young Jewish immigrant girls in cooking nutritious "American-style" meals for their families. Since its publication, several generations of household cooks have been raised on the delicious recipes of the cookbook. Proceeds from the sale of the original cookbook helped build Milwaukee's first settlement house and later the city's Jewish Community Center. The century-old cookbook is still in print today. This is a delightful biography, filled with humorous asides, wonderful period illustrations, and of course recipes!

Fountas and Pinnell Level S

To receive a review copy or press release, to schedule an author event, or for more information contact the WHS Press Marketing Department: whspress@wisconsinhistory.org.

Bob Kann is a storyteller, juggler and magician as well as an author. He performs throughout the United States in schools, libraries, at festivals, performing arts centers and wherever else children and families assemble. He also teaches classes and holds workshops on humor, motivation, creativity and storytelling for educators, social service agencies and businesses.

Check out the other books he's written for the Badger Biography series: "Belle and Bob La Follette," "Frank Lloyd Wright and His New American Architecture," "Cindy Bentley," and "Cordelia Harvey."

Visit author Bob Kann's website at:

Author Bob Kann created the Milwaukee Heroism Project curriculum for Milwaukee Public Schools. It was inspired by Lizzie Kander's heroic lifelong commitment to service.

The Milwaukee Heroism Project
(Appropriate for 4th grade and above)

How do we help students to understand that they are capable of changing the world? How do we nurture in them self-esteem, confidence, pride, and a sense of responsibility for the well-being of their community and places beyond? One way to achieve this is to help them find "the hero" within themselves. That is, to have them experience something in which they act heroically and thereby recognize their abilities to make the world a better place to live.

Arts @ Large has partnered with Dr. Robert Kann and the Jewish Museum Milwaukee to create the Milwaukee Heroism Project, based on Dr. Kann's new book published by the Wisconsin State Historical Society, "A Recipe for Success: Lizzie Kander and Her Cookbook."

Interview with Bob Kann

Wisconsin Historical Society Press: How did you get interested in Lizzie Kander?

In 2003, I was doing research on Jewish women who had emigrated to Wisconsin during the nineteenth century in preparation for storytelling performances I presented in conjunction with the WHS sponsored exhibit "And Prairie Dogs Weren't Kosher.'' Although Lizzie wasn't an immigrant, her parents were. In the course of coming upon Lizzie's story while doing my research for this performance, I learned enough about her to get interested writing her biography for WHS a few years later.

WHS Press: What personality traits helped her succeed as a leader?

Lizzie would not take "no" for an answer. She persevered until she achieved her goals no matter what obstacles were placed in her path. Consequently, she had one success after another, which must have attracted people to want to work with her since she got things done. She also was a flexible leader willing to listen to the needs of the community and make changes accordingly. Finally, she had a sense of humor and lack of ego, which again must have been very appealing.

WHS Press: How did Lizzie exemplify the ideals set forth for young women at the turn of the 20th century?

For middle class Jewish women like Lizzie at the turn of the century, there was an implicit responsibly to "do good works." Lizzie's 60-plus years of dedication to improving the lives of immigrants exemplified this ideal.

WHS Press: How did Lizzie diverge from such norms in what she was able to accomplish?

Paradoxically, Lizzie believed that a woman's place was in the home, and yet she excelled in her ventures outside of the home. In a world in which women commonly deferred to men, Lizzie was the president of an organization, served on boards of directors with equal power and voice as men, and had innumerable accomplishments very atypical for women of her time.

WHS Press: What did you enjoy most about writing this biography?

I loved doing the research and finding the stories. I felt like a historical detective trying to find all of the clues to put together the many stories which Lizzie's life demanded I investigate. For me, doing historical research is like panning for gold. Every so often I find "nuggets," and it's very satisfying to locate them. I also love the peripheral stories that invariably appear while I'm doing the research, and trying to understand how the world worked more than 100 years ago.

WHS Press: What about Lizzie's life did you find most surprising?

Lizzie's lifelong dedication to make the world a better place surprised me. For more than 60 years, she devoted her life to helping immigrants. I find this extraordinary commitment for such a long period of time surprising and, of course, admirable. I also was surprised by her ability to consistently overcome the impediments imposed upon her by being a woman in a period of time when it was very much a "man's world." Her determination transcended the limitations her gender could have burdened her with.

WHS Press: What aspects of Lizzie's life did you find most interesting to relate to young readers?

The "story" of Lizzie's cookbook provided me with a marvelous springboard for exploring a variety of "kid friendly" arenas. In the course of presenting Lizzie's life, I delved into culinary history, the history of germs and cleanliness, the history of Parcheesi, exams children took in 1879, and much more. All of these were rich with tales for me to uncover and then share with young readers. In addition, it was fascinating examining the many different editions of "The Settlement Cookbook" to find the names of recipes and recipes themselves that would be of interest to young readers and to discover the ways the cookbooks changed over time.

WHS Press: What did you find particularly challenging?

Locating the information I wanted often was particularly challenging. As a "historical detective," I periodically could not find all of the pieces I sought to complete the puzzle I was working on. For example, I know that Lizzie and Simon Kander never had children, but I never could find out why. I know that Lizzie began school at the age of four and graduated from high school at the age of twenty, but I don't know why she attended school for so long or even if she attended continually throughout her childhood. These are but a few of many puzzles that remain a mystery to me.

WHS Press: Why is Lizzie Kander's story an important one to share with young readers?

Lizzie Kander's story shows young readers that perseverance pays off, that you can lead a rich life spending your time helping others, that an ordinary woman can have extraordinary achievements, and that a small idea can have long and lasting consequences. All of these are important lessons for young people to learn.

WHS Press: How does Lizzie's story help us understand more about Wisconsin's immigrant past?

Although Lizzie's story focuses on her efforts to help Milwaukee's Eastern European Jewish immigrants, the difficulties experienced by those immigrants were universal. By examining Lizzie's story, we can understand the challenges immigrants encountered at the beginning of the twentieth century and how people already settled in America attempted to help the immigrants the adjust to their new home.

2006 Midwest Independent Publishers Association Midwest Book Awards
Honorable Mention in the Children/Young Adult Category

2007 Learning Magazine
Teachers' Choice Awardfor Children's Books

Moonbeam Children's Book Awards, Best Book Series - Nonfiction, Silver Medal Winner
This feature article by Karyn Saemann appeared in "The Capital Times" in 2008

Praise for Lizzie Kander

Hasia Diner, the Paul S. Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History and the director of the Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History at NYU
"First, let me say how fine the manuscript is. It is nicely written, conveys a tremendous amount of information, and weaves beautifully the personal details of LKB's life with the life of the community and the larger narrative of American history. She really comes to life in this piece."

Marcie Cohen Ferris, author of "Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South" and Associate Director of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"What a delight to finally get to know the real Lizzie Kander in 'A Recipe for Success.' Lizzie Kander is my hero she found other doorways when men closed doors to women, and she told us the secret it was through their hearts and tummies. Lizzie understood the power of food to nourish, to educate, to calm, to raise money, and to spread love. This powerful Badger Biography tells this story beautifully, and whets our appetites to learn more about the important women in America's past."

Carolyn Phelan, Booklist February 2007
From the Badger Biographies series, this nicely designed paperback introduces social reformer Lizzie Kander. Born in Milwaukee in 1858 to German immigrant parents, she worked tirelessly to improve the health, welfare, and education of children and their families, particularly in the Jewish immigrant community. One fund-raising project for the Milwaukee Settlement House met with spectacular success. "The Settlement House Cookbook", which provided simple recipes for preparing nutritious and appealing dishes, went through many editions from 1901 to 1997 and funded many social services. Kann provides insights into Kander's times, her character, and her work in the community. Many lengthy sidebars bring in background information on topics as diverse as women's suffrage, Parcheesi, and marshmallows as well as questions from an actual 1878 Milwaukee high-school entrance exam. Appendixes include a time line, a glossary, and a few recipes. This very accessible biography is illustrated with black-and-white reproductions of period photos, drawings, and documents.

Reform Judaism book feature Fall 2007
Lizzie Kander (1858-1940) represents a generation of German-Jewish women dedicated to philanthropy and volunteerism. President of the first Jewish settlement house in Milwaukee, she herself taught cooking and homemaking classes to Jewish immigrants arriving from Russia and Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Written for young readers from eight to twelve, Bob Kann's biography of Lizzie Kander tells an inspiring tale of commitment and spunk. When the men on the board of the settlement house refused to allocate $18 to print the recipes for the students, she and her committee raised the money for publication by selling advertisements in the book. An immediate commercial success, The Settlement House Cook Book paid in part for the construction of a new settlement house building and later Milwaukee's Jewish Community Center. (It was reprinted forty times between 1901 and 1991 and sold over 2 million copies.) Called the "Jane Addams of Milwaukee," Kander was a warm and generous woman whose volunteer work laid the foundations for Jewish social services.

Praise for Badger Biography Series

Big Life Stories for Little Readers

Bios for Kids Honor People Who Made Wisconsin Special

They changed the face of Wisconsin. Now, their faces are becoming familiar to children around the state.

Since 2005, the Wisconsin Historical Society Press has tapped a diverse well of authors to write children's biographies of notable state figures.

Notable doesn't have to mean famous. Some "Badger Biographies Series" subjects, like Green Bay Packers founder Curly Lambeau, are household names. But others, like immigrant Swiss cheese maker Casper Jaggi, are little known yet accomplished extraordinary things.

"We want to have a balance of well-known and not," said Bobbie Malone, director of the society's Office of School Services, whose job is to cultivate potential titles and authors. So far, eight books are out, and more are coming.

"I do love what I do," said Malone, a former first-grade teacher who, when not editing the latest biography or some other society publication, travels around the state showing teachers how to bring Wisconsin history alive.


"What's not to fall in love with? There are so many interesting stories," mused Malone from her tiny office overlooking UW-Madison's Library Mall.

The authors, too, say they've found inspiration in the stories that, in addition to Lambeau and Jaggi, have so far included Hmong refugee Mai Ya Xiong; escaped African-American slave and Underground Railroad user Caroline Quarlls; the founders of Harley-Davidson motorcycles; Mountain Wolf Woman, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation; the Ringling Brothers of circus fame; and Milwaukee Jew Lizzie Kander, whose "Settlement Cook Book" taught American homemaking to immigrant women and raised money for social causes.

"I think it's fascinating to see how people lived their lives," said Diane Young Holliday, an archaeologist who authored "Mountain Wolf Woman: A Ho-Chunk Girlhood."

Ultimately, "we want people to fall in love with the past so they value it and connect it to their own lives," Malone said.

Bob Kann, who inked Lizzie Kander's story and is himself a Jew whose mother owned a "Settlement Cook Book," said readers will relate to the tales of hard work and determination.

"It's important to expose kids to people who are exemplary, to show how people accomplished what they accomplished, how they dealt with defeat and to show their resilience in how they bounced back," Kann said.

Of Milwaukee's Jewish immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th Century, Kann said he hoped to show "how difficult their lives were, and how courageous it was for them to come to this country with very few resources."

"There weren't any social service agencies," Kann said. "They were very fortunate to have people like Lizzie Kander who were filling that gap."


Writing for children isn't easy.

Jerry Apps, a veteran writer who with the exception of two titles has spent 35 years crafting adult books, called writing for children "extremely difficult."

Apps adapted both of his Badger Biographies titles, on the Ringling family and Jaggi, from adult books he previously wrote on the same subjects.

"It's boiling down the material in such a way that you get to the essence of it, in a way that communicates to young readers yet doesn't compromise the history," Apps said.

"I wasn't sure if I could explain things at a fourth-grade level," admitted Young Holliday, recalling reservations she had when collaborating with Malone on a publication previous to "Mountain Wolf Woman."

In some cases, it's weighing how to appropriately present the tainted personal lives of memorable people to a target audience of fourth- through eighth-graders, without whitewashing too much truth.

For all his legendary professional success, Curly Lambeau treated people badly and had serious character flaws that included infidelity, said Stuart Stotts, a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan and author of "Curly Lambeau: Building the Green Bay Packers."

"Curly was a philanderer, but that is not really dealt with in the book," Stotts said. "We didn't feel that was appropriate for 10-year-olds. You say a little bit about how he was divorced three times, and something about his inability to get along with people, but don't go into the details of extramarital affairs."

However, "I think 7- to 10-year-olds are quite capable of understanding that people are complex," Stotts said. "I think at this age they are quite able to recognize that people may have good qualities and bad qualities at the same time. The subtleties of behavior are not at all beyond what they are dealing with in their own social situations."

"I think as a biographer it's our job to make people's character flaws clear if we are aware of them, but not to dwell on them. The purpose of the book is not to bring down Curly Lambeau, but we have to be realistic about who he was."

Similarly tricky adult situations led to Mountain Wolf Woman's story focusing not on her grown-up years, but on her childhood, Malone said.

"You want to make it real but you can't overwhelm young readers with details or information they can't handle," Malone said.


The series is not done. In fact, it's just getting started.

In the pipeline are potential books on "Fighting Bob" and Belle Case La Follette, Govs. Lucius Fairchild and Gaylord Nelson, rural doctor Kate Newcomb, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Cindy Bentley, a disabled Special Olympics athlete.

In addition to representing subjects of divergent backgrounds, Malone said she hopes to focus on people from various geographical corners of the state.

All of the books include an abundance of illustrations and break-out boxes that help readers further explore the topic and historical era. All also have a glossary, supplemental reading list and group discussion questions.

If she could find an interested author, Malone said she would love to produce a biography on naturalist and engineer Increase Lapham. Fur trader Soloman Juneau is also on her list.

And she would like to do a bilingual biography about migrant workers from Mexico. "We haven't gotten there yet, but that's definitely a direction I would like to go. There definitely are stories" about such workers and the people who brought them here, Malone said.

Malone said going back beyond the 19th century, to those who first populated the state, would be challenging in a biography format.

In historical fiction you can set a made-up person in a chosen era. But with biography you need factual details about an actual being. The difficulty, Malone said, is unearthing the documents that chronicle a particular life.