Jenny Get Your Oatcake Done


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Jenny Get Your Oatcake Done

[Alternately: “Jenny Get Your Hocake Done,” “Jenny, Get Your Hoecake Done,” “Jenny Get Your Hoe Cake Done,” “Jenny Get Your Hoe Cakes Done”]

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Both may have been composed by Joel Sweeney (1810-1860), whom Cockrell suggests made the song famous during the 1840s (10). The earliest publication of the song seems to be the Firth and Hall edition of 1840 (New York). According to Mahar, the song describes the preparation of a loaf of bread in an oven adjacent to the main hearth of a typical Virginia cookhouse, the hoe being the tool used to remove the loaf of bread from the oven (13-14). He goes on to suggest that “Jenny” was a code word used to disguise the social plans of female slaves (14). However, in the edition surveyed for this entry, less emphasis seems to be placed upon the activities of the female character of the song and more on the male character, likely evidence of transmission.

It appears that the song was fairly popular during the period in question, though arguably more so in America judging by evidence in the database. The recordings suggest that this song, or a variation of it, is entering, or has been admitted into the America country-folk canon.

Select Recording History:

  • 2nd South Carolina String Band. “Jenny, Get Your Hoecake Done.” Southern Soldier. Palmetto Productions, 1997.

  • Grandpa Jones. “Jenny Get Your Hoe Cakes Done.” The Best of the Best: Grandpa Jones. Gusto Records, 1964.

  • The Free Staters. “Jenny Get Your Hoe Cake Done.” Watch the Ring Tailed Monkey Dance. The Free Staters, 2007.

    Works Cited:
  • Cockrell, Dale. Demons of Disorder: Early Blackface Minstrels and Their World. New York: Cambridge UP, 1997.

  • Mahar, William J. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. Chicago: Illinois UP, 1999.

    Mark Turner

  • Media: 
    Sheet Music Cover
    Sheet Music Cover #2
    Sheet Music Cover #3
    Audio File - Minstrels in the Parlour

    Performance(s) listed of this act

    Performer(s) Troupe Event and Venue

    Smith, Jonathan
    Smith, Jonathan Dramatic, 15 Sep. 1842 - 15 Sep. 1842
    Queen's Theatre, Lancashire
    Ethiopian Delineators (not Pelham's, 1847) Minstrel Show, 10 Jul. 1847 - 10 Jul. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire