‘to slave over a hot stove’: meaning and origin

The phrase to slave over a hot stove, and its variants, mean to toil long and hard in cooking.

This phrase occurs, for example, in the recipe for a homemade soup, by Mary Hunt, published in the News-Tribune (Spring Valley, Illinois, USA) of Tuesday 26th October 2021:

It’s the kind of semi-homemade recipe that is so amazing and tastes so fresh it’s going to fool your friends and family into thinking you’ve been peeling, chopping, sieving, pureeing and basically slaving over a hot stove for the better part of a day. That’s the fun part.

The phrase to slave over a hot stove and variants were originally used in relation to women’s subjection to men. The earliest occurrences that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From a letter by Marenda Briggs Randall 1, dated Woodstock, Vermont, Wednesday 9th August 1843, published in the Vermont Telegraph (Brandon, Vermont, USA) of Wednesday 23rd August 1843:

For the Vermont Telegraph.
Brother Murray 2:—A few thoughts on this subject having presented themselves to my mind this morning, with your permission I will present them to your readers. As I passed through our pleasant village, on my return from a delightful walk, I saw occasionally, a cloud of smoke rising from the houses I was passing, and heard the clatter of stoves and kettles, shewing that poor, blind, infatuated woman was at her accustomed slavery, preparing breakfast, over a hot stove, this sultry August morning. So long as our depraved appetites must be pampered every morning with hot coffee and meat, or hot bread and butter, so long, woman must, from necessity, be the most abject slave in the universe of God. But the worst feature of female slavery is, that they are willing victims. Thus showing in the most impressive manner possible, the unfathomable depth of their bondage.

1 Marenda Briggs Randall (1815-1876) was a doctor, women’s rights advocate, suffragette, spiritualist and educational reformer.
2 A Baptist minister and radical reformer, Orson S. Murray (1806-1885) was the editor of the Vermont Telegraph.

2-: From the following dialogue between a woman and her husband, in The Outraged Wife, published in the Napa County Reporter (Napa, California, USA) of Saturday 11th September 1875:

“Where on earth have you been until this hour with dinner ready an hour ago, and the flies enough to drive one mad.”
“Well, I had to see a man down town, an’—”
“Had to see a man, did you? You have got to see somebody eternally. It don’t make any difference how I may slave over a hot stove while you are on the street gassin’ a loafer.”

3-: From the account of a divorce case, published in The Stockton Mail (Stockton, California, USA) of Thursday 10th May 1883:

The testimony of Mr. Carey was then reviewed scathingly. His denial that he had treated Mrs. Carey on several special occasions in a grossly brutal manner was referred to by the counsel as a lie. “Do you suppose,” added the speaker, “that the man who would do such a thing would own to having done it? Is it right for you to relegate this plaintiff into the hands and keeping of a man such as the defendant has been proved to be? He does not even pretend to deny […] that she worked like a galley slave over a hot stove in harvest time for his family.”

4-: From “A Somewhat Rambling Letter” published in the Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon, USA) of Tuesday 7th June 1887:

He says I make no note of the days my wife was slaving over a hot stove cooking for an army of hungry threshers.

5-: From the Woman’s Exponent 3 (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA) of Tuesday 15th May 1888:


Do we realize, my sisters, what we are here on this earth for? This question has passed through my mind more than once lately.
Are we here to spend our precious time in making fine clothes to decorate these bodies of ours? It is true we should dress nice and becoming, and get the best material we can afford, but a great deal of choice time is spent in foolish fashion. Neither should we spend our time and strength in extravagant cooking, when we know that plain and wholesome food is more conducive to health. Many a one is slaving over a hot stove on Sunday when they should be taking in spiritual food for the week to come. Neither should our amusements and recreations be carried to excess; we should use wisdom in all things. We, the children of our Heavenly Father, are sent to the earth to prove ourselves and show to what use we will put the talents we are endowed with. We should be educating ourselves for the future, which will last forever. We would not wish to enter the next world and have to commence by learning the alphabet as it were; but by learning all we can pertaining to the future, we will be ready to take the higher studies when we go beyond.

3 Founded in 1872, the Woman’s Exponent was a newspaper by, and about, Mormon women.

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