Betty Crocker (Encyclopedia of Food & Culture)
BETTY CROCKER. Betty Crocker, an American cultural icon, was created in 1921 by the advertising department of the Washburn Crosby milling company just before it merged with General Mills. The consummate homemaker who could answer any cooking question with ease, Betty Crocker was based upon several real women, the two most notable being home economists Janette Kelley and Marjorie Child Husted.
Neither her name nor her face, which has been updated numerous times, was real. Both, however, became synonymous with good cooking and competent homemaking through newspaper columns, radio programs, television spots, and the publication of over 150 cookbooks. Betty Crocker's most significant contribution came in 1951 with the publication of Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, which remains a top-selling cookbook today. Unlike the extremely thorough The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook helped women cook by including both large illustrations and recipes on one page.
Betty Crocker's image and what it represents has created an automatic acceptance by consumers of numerous General Mills products from breads to cake mixes. Perhaps more important, her icon status has given her an active role in American life. Betty Crocker has helped generations of American women over the years deal with challenges including food scarcity during the Depression and World War II, a renewed emphasis on homemaking in the postwar years, and the increasing sophistication of American taste. From cutting food costs to increasing women's satisfaction through cooking to adding new ingredients to update old recipes, Betty Crocker continues to keep her finger on the pulse of American life and to respond accordingly.
See also Advertising of Food; Baking; Cake and Pancake; Cookbooks; Cooking; Marketing of Food.
DuSablon, Mary Anna. America's Collectible Cookbooks: The History, the Politics, the Recipes. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1984.
Levenstein, Harvey. Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Erika A. Endrijonas