Marjorie Husted



Marjorie Husted (née Child; April 2, 1892 – December 23, 1986) was an American home economist and businesswoman who worked for
General Mills General Mills, Inc., is an American multinational manufacturer and marketer of branded processed consumer foods sold through retail stores. Founded on the banks of the Mississippi River at Saint Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, the company ori ...
and was responsible for the success and fame of the brand character Betty Crocker. Husted wrote Betty Crocker's radio scripts and was her radio voice for a time.Shapiro, p. 185. Several different women are believed by different audiences to be the woman behind Betty Crocker. Until recently when the company admitted she was not a real person, Husted answered to the name Betty Crocker for visitors to
General Mills General Mills, Inc., is an American multinational manufacturer and marketer of branded processed consumer foods sold through retail stores. Founded on the banks of the Mississippi River at Saint Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, the company ori ...
.Shapiro, p. 187. Husted's original ideas and hard work transformed Betty Crocker, in the words of author Laura Shapiro, into "the most successful culinary authority ever invented."

Education and early career

Born in
Minneapolis Minneapolis () is the largest city in Minnesota, United States, and the county seat of Hennepin County. The city is abundant in water, with thirteen lakes, wetlands, the Mississippi River, creeks and waterfalls. Minneapolis has its origins ...
, Minnesota, the daughter of Sampson Child and his wife, Alice, she studied home economics and German at the
University of Minnesota The University of Minnesota, formally the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, (UMN Twin Cities, the U of M, or Minnesota) is a public land-grant research university in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, United Stat ...
where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. She graduated in 1913 and returned to the university for a degree in education.Britannica 2016 She first worked as a secretary at the Infant Welfare Society of Minneapolis, and then at the Red Cross during World War I. After the war she belonged to the Women's Cooperative Alliance. In 1923 she became supervisor of promotional advertising and merchandising for the Creamette Company. She married Wallace Husted in 1925.

General Mills

In 1924, she went to work as a field representative in home economics for the Washburn–Crosby Company which four years later became General Mills. For a year, she taught Gold Medal successful cooking schools around the country and was then in 1926 sent back to Minneapolis, where she organized the Home Service Department, comprising five home economists and herself. Their job was to answer homemaking questions from the public, all signed "Betty Crocker,"Shapiro, p. 181. whom General Mills had invented in 1921. The department was renamed the Betty Crocker Homemaking Service in 1929, with forty staff members and Husted as director.

Betty Crocker

For the next few decades Husted worked to make Betty Crocker an empire. She turned Betty Crocker into a radio and television star, a newspaper columnist, and a book and pamphlet author, who sold food and eventually silverware and small appliances. After some time, at the General Mills president's directive, when visitors to General Mills met Husted, she was introduced as Betty Crocker. Promoting their product, Gold Medal flour, in 1921 General Mills sponsored a contest in which home bakers returned a jigsaw puzzle and received a pin cushion in the shape of a sack of Gold Medal, but they were unprepared for the flood of questions that were submitted alongside contest entries. "Why does my cake crack on top?" "How do you make a one-crust cherry pie?" At first company executives answered the letters, finally passing the task to a source who women were more likely to trust, a spokeswoman they invented named Betty Crocker. While teaching Gold Medal cooking schools, Hustead learned a method of learning about cooks and their problems and interests. In each new city she visited, she sent high-school girls to interview local cooks. Later in Minneapolis, each recipe developed in a General Mills test kitchen was then given to local homemakers to try. Husted went to their kitchens and saw, for example, that when "they measured flour and...sugar they would tap down the cup." So Betty Crocker recipes had to be foolproof for these household errors. Her observations went to General Mills research where they became recipes and instructions from Betty Crocker. General Mills eventually created its product development in three stages: home economists tried the recipe in a test kitchen, then a group of Minneapolis homemakers tried it, and finally it was tested by a much larger group of homemakers across the nation.

Radio, retirement

From its debut in 1924, with Home Service's Blanche Ingersoll as Betty, until 1953, ''Gold Medal Flour Home Service Talks'', later known as ''Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air'' was a daytime
broadcast Broadcasting is the distribution of audio or video content to a dispersed audience via any electronic mass communications medium, but typically one using the electromagnetic spectrum (radio waves), in a one-to-many model. Broadcasting began wi ...
. At first the show was only on the Minneapolis radio station that Washburn-Crosby acquired and named WCCO. The show expanded to stations throughout the country, with different women featured as Betty, until 1936 when recording equipment was invented and made a single voice as Betty possible. During the 1950s, the five minute show ''Time for Betty Crocker'' broadcast nine times a week. Laura Shapiro writes in her 2004 book ''Something from the Oven'' that these shows existed "before broadcasting enforced any important distinction between editorial content and advertising." Husted wrote all of Betty Crocker's scripts for the cooking school show and took over as the radio voice in 1926 or 1927 and remained so for perhaps up to two decades,Husted was Betty Crocker's radio voice for two decades in: but she played a larger role in expanding Betty Crocker's character. She interviewed "eligible bachelors" and visited movie stars like
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and Cary Grant to ask them about their life at home. She created games and quizzes and drama pieces based on letters she received. During World War II, Crocker starred in ''Our Nation's Rations'' and after the war Husted helped start ''The Betty Crocker Magazine of the Air''. Shapiro says, "Under her direction, Betty Crocker became a figure of dignity who treated homemakers with respect."Shapiro, p. 186. Husted strove to make Crocker appear to be a home economist with professional experience, not a home cook. By 1948, Betty Crocker was known to 91 percent of American homemakers. In 1946, Husted was named a consultant to the officers and executives of General Mills. In 1948 she was made consultant in advertising, public relations, and home service. Husted researched and published ''Betty Crocker's Good and Easy Cookbook'' in 1950, which sold 18 million copies, and ultimately the Betty Crocker cookbooks numbered about 50 titles that sold 45 million copies. She retired from the company in 1950 when she formed the consultancy Marjorie Child Husted and Associates.

Gender discrimination

In 1951, in a speech to the
American Association of University Women The American Association of University Women (AAUW), officially founded in 1881, is a non-profit organization that advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research. The organization has a nationwide network of 170,000 ...
, Husted said, "Management is dominated by men and there is no indication of interest on the part of employers for change." When she retired, she earned about one-fourth the salary of their top salesman, even though General Mills executives told Husted she had done more for the company's sales than any other person.

Awards and honors

In 1948, President Truman presented the Woman of the Year award of the Women's National Press Club to six women including Husted. Also in 1948, Husted was a consultant for the national food conservation program of the
United States Department of Agriculture The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, rural economic development, and food. It aims to meet the needs of com ...
. Husted was named Advertising Woman of the Year in 1949 by the Advertising Federation of America. That year she served on the AAUW Committee on the Status of Women and helped research and edit selected AAUW publications until about 1955.




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External links

Portrait of Husted seated at her desk
Getty Images {{DEFAULTSORT:Husted, Marjorie 1892 births 1986 deaths Home economists Actresses from Minneapolis Businesspeople from Minneapolis University of Minnesota alumni American radio actresses 20th-century American actresses General Mills people 20th-century American businesspeople