Betty Crocker could be argued to be one of the most influential women in Minnesota during the last 75 years. She was the voice of the American housewife and helped create an empire that is still a large part of the Minnesotan economy.
Created originally as an advertising ploy, Betty Crocker soon became the confidante and idol of women all over America. She provided advice on everything from how to satisfy your husband to how to make the perfect cake, using General Mills products, of course, to how to entertain your friends. When my parents got married at 19 and 21 years of age, the first gift my dad gave to my mom was a Betty Crocker cookbook. My mom still has the cookbook and still falls back on it for her favorite dishes. My dad would argue that Betty Crocker taught my mom how to cook. I have since found that exact cookbook at a thrift store and return to its pages to recreate the meals of my childhood, some of which are the best-tasting meals I have had.
To me, Betty Crocker symbolizes family. To Minnesota she was part of the driving force behind the building of an industry giant. It's hard to believe that she never really existed, in the flesh, that is. Betty Crocker was and is alive in households throughout Minnesota and the United States.
~Katherine Grafing, Minneapolis, MN
She is an icon that is shared by multiple generations. She has the ability to change with the times and the world. She weaves a common thread through kitchens, families and homes throughout the country.
~Corrine Moore, Woodbury, MN
No, I'm not joking. Betty completely changed the practice of cooking in America, making it accessible to everyone. Today we take for granted standardized cooking practices, including standard cooking pan sizes and measuring practices, all started by Betty. I think she is a particularly fascinating personage because she's not really one person, but many women over the years and decades, all contributing to the idea of making cooking accessible and enjoyable for everyone. She leveled the class playing field when it came to cooking, and I think that's pretty powerful. Go Betty!
~Carrie Mercer, Minneapolis, MN
Betty represents family, food, wholesomeness. She promotes products grown in Minnesota.
~Susan Sivula, Maple Grove, MN
What would you and the family do without her cookbooks?
Betty and General Mills are essential participants in the growth of our state. The agricultural products grown and used here are personified by Betty. Her involvement transcends into our high quality of life and family. P.S. I know she isn't real.
~Gayle Dreon, Maple Grove, MN
I've chosen Betty Crocker because she inspired young women that they can cook like their mothers and grandmothers. Betty Crocker's bakery offered housewives a solution. They could make their families a tasty dessert like the ones illustrated.
~Juan Lomax, Minneapolis, MN
A Minneapolis company invents an American icon
Despite rumors to the contrary, Betty Crocker was never a real person. She was cooked up by the folks at Washburn Crosby Company in Minneapolis (the forerunner to General Mills) as part of a promotional scheme.
In 1921, Washburn Crosby offered homemakers free flour-sack pincushions for completing a jigsaw puzzle. Successful entries flooded the mailroom, along with hundreds of questions about recipes and baking techniques. Advertising manager Sam Gale saw in these questions an opportunity to promote Washburn Crosby as a trusted friend of homemakers. But form-letter answers just wouldn't do-he needed an approachable expert to lend a personal touch to his correspondence.
And so along came Betty Crocker: a friendly, familiar first name attached to the surname of William G. Crocker, the company's recently retired director. Washburn Crosby employees were invited to submit sample signatures for Betty-and the winner is still in use today.
Betty found her voice in 1924, when daytime radio's first food service program hit the airwaves via WCCO, the "Gold Medal Station" of Washburn Crosby Company. An instant success, the "Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air" soon became a network program, dispensing tasty recipes and up-to-the-minute advice for the next twenty-four years.
A name, a signature, and a voice. But how do you picture the person whose timely tips saved your last dinner party from disaster? In 1936, the first portrait of Betty Crocker was commissioned from Neysa McMein, a well-known artist whose work had appeared on the covers of McCall's and The Saturday Evening Post. McMein blended the features of several General Mills Home Service Department staffers into an image of culinary competence that was the official Betty Crocker for nearly twenty years.
Over the years, a succession of Betty Crockers followed. The eighth and most recent portrait was unveiled in 1996 to accompany the eighth edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook. Her looks may have changed with the times-but where food preparation and nutrition are concerned, you can still trust Betty Crocker every time.
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