Marjorie Child Husted: The Real Betty Crocker

Championing Women

It is very interesting to me to look back now and realize how concerned I was about the welfare of women as homemakers and their feelings of self-respect. Women needed a champion. Here were millions of them staying at home alone, doing a job with children, cooking, cleaning on minimal budgets — the whole depressing mess of it. They needed someone to remind them that they had value.

Marjorie Child Husted (1892–1986), a graduate from the University of Minnesota and AAUW member, was a home economist, businesswoman — and the brain and voice behind Betty Crocker.

During World War I, Husted volunteered for the Red Cross and was eventually promoted to field director. In 1924, she was hired as home economics field representative for Washburn-Crosby, the parent company for Gold Medal Flour. Washburn-Crosby would later join General Mills, the company most associated with (and present-day owner of) the Betty Crocker line of products.

Husted managed a staff of 40 in the Betty Crocker Homemaking Service. She voiced Betty on the radio show Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air, offering cooking and home-management advice to millions of women for two decades. As her role expanded, Husted even traveled to Hollywood to interview movie stars such as Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert, Jean Harlow, Helen Hayes, and Clark Gable. Her interviews portrayed the stars as regular people who also enjoyed Betty’s recipes and home-cooked food. Husted also researched and edited the famous Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, commonly known as Big Red. In one year, sales of Big Red neared those for the Bible.

 

Husted received many accolades for her role in creating Betty. In 1945, Fortune magazine declared Betty Crocker the second-most popular woman in America, behind Eleanor Roosevelt. Three years later, Husted accepted the Woman of the Year award from the Women’s National Press Club. President Harry Truman presented her with the award along with fellow recipients Eleanor Roosevelt, Grandma Moses, and Portland Mayor Dorothy McCullough Lee (another AAUW member!) Husted also won 1949 Advertising Woman of the Year from the Advertising Federation of America.

In one her frequent contributions to the Journal of Home Economics, Husted wrote an article entitled “Would You Like More Recognition?” about the need to empower women. She also created a “bias quiz” for men to recognize and evaluate their innate biases towards women.

An active AAUW member, Husted was appointed to the national AAUW Committee on the Status of Women in 1949. As a committee member, she researched and edited a 1955 handbook for branches titled Adventures in Freedom: Handbook for Improving the Status of Women. In the opening, she exclaimed, “To all the far-sighted, able women who have blazed the trail for the rest of us — our deep appreciation!” Husted also worked on the development of the AAUW Money Management Portfolio for Women, which debuted in 1953.