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Finding Betty Crocker : The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food
by Susan Marks




Overview -
IN 1945, FORTUNE MAGAZINE named Betty Crocker the second most popular American woman, right behind Eleanor Roosevelt, and dubbed Betty America's First Lady of Food. Not bad for a gal who never actually existed.
Born in 1921 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to proud corporate parents, Betty Crocker has grown, over eight decades, into one of the most successful branding campaigns the world has ever known. Now, at long last, she has her own biography. Finding Betty Crocker draws on six years of research plus an unprecedented look into the General Mills archives to reveal how a fictitious spokesperson was enthusiastically welcomed into kitchens and shopping carts across the nation.
The Washburn Crosby Company (one of the forerunners to General Mills) chose the cheery all-American Betty as a first name and paired it with Crocker, after William Crocker, a well-loved company director. Betty was to be the newest member of the Home Service Department, where she would be a friend to consumers in search of advice on baking -- and, in an unexpected twist, their personal lives.
Soon Betty Crocker had her own national radio show, which, during the Great Depression and World War II, broadcast money-saving recipes, rationing tips, and messages of hope. Over 700,000 women joined Betty's wartime Home Legion program, while more than one million women -- and men -- registered for the Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air during its twenty-seven-year run.
At the height of Betty Crocker's popularity in the 1940s, she received as many as four to five thousand letters daily, care of General Mills. When her first full-scale cookbook, Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, or Big Red, as it is affectionately known, was released in 1950, first-year sales rivaled those of the Bible. Today, over two hundred products bear her name, along with thousands of recipe booklets and cookbooks, an interactive website, and a newspaper column.
What is it about Betty? In answering the question of why everyone was buying what she was selling, author Susan Marks offers an entertaining, charming, and utterly unique look -- through words and images -- at an American icon situated between profound symbolism and classic kitchen kitsch

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More About Finding Betty Crocker by Susan Marks

 
 
 

Overview

IN 1945, FORTUNE MAGAZINE named Betty Crocker the second most popular American woman, right behind Eleanor Roosevelt, and dubbed Betty America's First Lady of Food. Not bad for a gal who never actually existed.
Born in 1921 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to proud corporate parents, Betty Crocker has grown, over eight decades, into one of the most successful branding campaigns the world has ever known. Now, at long last, she has her own biography. Finding Betty Crocker draws on six years of research plus an unprecedented look into the General Mills archives to reveal how a fictitious spokesperson was enthusiastically welcomed into kitchens and shopping carts across the nation.
The Washburn Crosby Company (one of the forerunners to General Mills) chose the cheery all-American Betty as a first name and paired it with Crocker, after William Crocker, a well-loved company director. Betty was to be the newest member of the Home Service Department, where she would be a friend to consumers in search of advice on baking -- and, in an unexpected twist, their personal lives.
Soon Betty Crocker had her own national radio show, which, during the Great Depression and World War II, broadcast money-saving recipes, rationing tips, and messages of hope. Over 700,000 women joined Betty's wartime Home Legion program, while more than one million women -- and men -- registered for the Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air during its twenty-seven-year run.
At the height of Betty Crocker's popularity in the 1940s, she received as many as four to five thousand letters daily, care of General Mills. When her first full-scale cookbook, Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, or Big Red, as it is affectionately known, was released in 1950, first-year sales rivaled those of the Bible. Today, over two hundred products bear her name, along with thousands of recipe booklets and cookbooks, an interactive website, and a newspaper column.
What is it about Betty? In answering the question of why everyone was buying what she was selling, author Susan Marks offers an entertaining, charming, and utterly unique look -- through words and images -- at an American icon situated between profound symbolism and classic kitchen kitsch


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Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743265010
  • ISBN-10: 0743265017
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publish Date: April 2005
  • Page Count: 274
  • Dimensions: 5.8 x 8.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.15 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Still baking us happy

Was there ever a time when Betty Crocker wasn't an American cultural touchstone? In the same class of advertising icons as Aunt Jemima and the Pillsbury Doughboy, Betty Crocker epitomizes the desire of cooks to please their families with fresh-baked goodies. Susan Marks spent six years researching this cultural phenomenon, writing a master's thesis, a documentary and Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food.

Betty's mission was to address the homemaking and baking concerns of legions of Gold Medal Flour customers who wrote in by the thousands. Marks includes some of these letters in the book, as well as recipes and a selection of advertisements featuring Betty Crocker. Over the decades, Betty's status as the First Lady of American Food grew as she saw America through the Depression, World War II and the 1950s with her penny-pinching recipes and radio programs, adapting to the needs of the dedicated homemaker. By the time the 1960s and '70s rolled around, Betty was synonymous with cooking.

Just as Betty's audience changed through the years, so did her appearance, as illustrated by a gallery of her ever-changing visage. From her first portrait in the 1930s (said to have been a composite of the women on the Gold Medal kitchen staff), Betty Crocker's image has kept up with what her audience deems both authoritative and comforting. That almost no one makes cakes and pancakes from scratch anymore is a testament to the simplicity she preached. But Betty Crocker's legacy extends beyond "just add water" mixes. We needed Betty to pour into our minds the idea that cooking wasn't onerous, even for busy parents and working stiffs. Betty and her big red spoon logo meant that the recipes perfected in her test kitchens were guaranteed successes, and by extension, so were the women who made them at home.

Kelly Koepke is the restaurant critic for the Albuquerque Journal.

 

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