Becoming Betty Crocker . . .

  • By Brenda Buckingham
  • 21 Jul, 2012
When I think of domestic, there are a few images of women that come to my mind . . . my Mom, my Grandma and Grammy (my Great-Grandma)  . . . and . . . Betty Crocker!  My Domestic Mama! Created in 1921 by the Washburn Crosby Company, who later became General Mills, she […]
Betty Crocker!

My Domestic Mama!

Created in 1921 by the Washburn Crosby Company, who later became General Mills, she was first created as a way for the company to communicate and encourage women in their domestic endeavors.  The name “Betty” was chosen because the company felt it was “cheerful” and had an “All American” feel to it.  The last name “Crocker” was given to honor William Crocker, who was, at that time, the director of Washburn Crosby.  Her image and persona was created by a business woman and home economist, Marjorie Husted.  She helped make Betty Crocker the General Mills icon she is today.

In 1945 Betty Crocker came in second to Eleanor Roosevelt as the most popular woman in the country.  In 1949, Adelaide Hawley Cumming was hired to portray Betty Crocker, appearing on many tv shows, including Burns & Allen and commercials until 1964.  Since 1930, Betty Crocker cookbooks have been a top selling book throughout America, as well as several other countries.  Betty Crocker was also know for their coupons and silverware, sold in conjunction with Oneida.

Why was Betty Crocker so quickly and readily received?  I believe she represented something women wanted.  She represented calm and order, skill and determination.  She was seen as a symbol of nurturing and caring.  Someone who put the needs of her family first and treated her friends and neighbors with love and compassion.

Two years ago, when we moved to Orchard Prairie, a farming community within Spokane county, I was excited to be invited to the Orchard Prairie Homemakers Club.  This club had been in existence for over 90 years.  It was similar to a Home Legion Club, but perhaps even more focused on the farm woman, with canning and gardening as one of it’s top concerns.  Over the years these women would get together and help, encourage and even mentor other women in this little country community.  They also did many service projects for the Orchard Prairie school and grange.  From quilting to painting to everything in between, these industrius women got things accomplished.  In the 1970s, they painted signs and put up a “directory” of sorts, directing people to all the different farmer’s homes.  The one pictured below is still standing at the end of our road.  The word “Charbonneau” is the name of the last owner of our home.

It is kind of humorous that many years ago I rescued a couple signs from a slash pile, ready to be burned.  I just thought they had country charm.  I had no idea that I would someday live on these roads and the names on these signs would become my neighbors.  They hang proudly in my craft room today

Anyway, I am sad to report that, as of last Wednesday, The Orchard Prairie Homemakers Club is now desolved.  After nearly a century, what makes a club like that fall apart?  I also have heard that Betty Crocker is now only used for an “on-line store” and that too will soon merge with  Her “Home Legion” clubs have long since disappeared.  When my sweet elderly neighbor, Barbara, told me the Orchard Prairie Homemakers Club was ending, I was sad.  I felt kind of cheated.  I wanted to learn from these women . . . these amazing women that weren’t afraid of a long hard days work, that didn’t find blessing their family to be demeaning or worthless.  But, as we talked, Barbara explained that there is just no one there to step up and take the club on to the next generation.  When I attended their meetings, the next youngest person to me was at least 10 years my senior.  She said most of the members are getting too old and there are no younger ones stepping up to take it on.  Most of the younger women in Orchard Prairie work full time and no longer focus on gardening and cooking.  For a brief moment, I thought of being the noble Joan of Ark and rescuing this club.  But then I thought again . . . who, besides myself, would come?!   Realizing a club of one just wouldn’t work, I sadly bit my lip and let the sweet old club slip away as a part of “Orchard Prairie history”.

But, I am not without hope.  I know on a broad scale, there are still those of us who want to be the Betty Crockers of today.  We may not look the same . . . perhaps trading our pearls in for sweatpants or running shorts and our high heels for bare feet or birkenstocks.  But the goal is still the same.  We want to bless our families,  we want to work hard and make our homes a haven.  We believe being domestic is a good thing and not something to be looked down on or treated as “beneath us.”  Housework is not always rewarding.  Rarely do my children “rise up and call me blessed” as in the scriptures of the Proverbs 31 woman.  But I know, deep down it matters.  When the house is bubbling over with the smells of roast beef and homemade cookies, I know my family is pleased.  When the laundry is done and the dishes are washed, I know it brings a sense of peace and order that we all care about.

So all of this thinking about dear Betty, made me ask myself . . . “Just how Betty Crocker-ish am I?  Do I always make my family my top priority?  Is my focus on how I can bless those I love?  Is my laundry done each day?  Does my sink shine?  Well . . . sometimes.  I know my desire is to become the Proverbs 31 woman . . . a woman who works hard to bless her family.  She rises early, works diligently, gives her full heart and effort to all she does.  She is a woman who desires to please God and to please her family.  But on a day in day out basis, I fall pitifully short.  As I write this blog, my carpets need vacuumed.  I just brought the laundry in off of the drying rack I have set up on our patio . . . only to discover our towels had been visited by lots and lots of ear wigs.  I don’t ever recall Betty Crocker dealing with this situation!  Only one child was home for dinner and with Ron and I on our last week of our detox diet, which is a juice fast for the final week, poor Connor had a frozen burrito.  I spent most of the day painting our garage rather than frosting a cake or making a pot roast.  My focus has really been on fixing up our yard and outbuidings for my upcoming antique show.  When not painting my garage or chicken coop, I may very likely be found painting or sanding a piece of furniture, painting a sign or dragging home yet another project to “re-do” for my show.  While there is nothing wrong with these endeavors, I realize they are taking priority over my family.  I need to shift my focus and make sure my family knows they matter to me and make blessing them my top priority.

So today I am dusting myself off, digging my cutest apron out of it’s drawer and proclaiming “I will be Betty Crocker!” (although, I will be a Betty Crocker in bare feet . . .)  I will choose to bless my family and in doing so, to please the Lord.

So, dear girlfriends, who’s with me?  Go grab that apron, put on some lipstick and let’s get some Betty Crocker attitude going!  Wipe those floors, shine that sink, dust that furniture.  You go girl!  Stop being intimidated by the thought of making homemade pork chops.  It’s just meat . . . not rocket science!  Overcome the temptation to replace the comforts of a healthy, homemade meal with convenient fast food.  So what if you aren’t a natural in the kitchen . . . if you can read, you can cook . . . reading a recipe really isn’t a great talent.  And “not liking to cook” or “not enjoying the laundry” are not excuses.  In the work force, if you don’t like an aspect of your job, it really doesn’t matter.  It is what is expected of you, so therefore you do it.  I get frustrated when I hear women proclaiming, “I don’t have a domestic bone in my body”.   Just like anything, it is a learned skill.  A woman is or isn’t domestic by choice.  As a Christian wife and Mama, I know choosing to be domestic is the right thing for me.

While the homemaker clubs of yesterday are no longer around, there are still many women who have mastered many areas of keeping a home and blessing their families.  Seek out these women and ask them to mentor you . . . they most likely will be very flattered and more than happy to help.  I still ask my Mom questions about cooking on a fairly regular basis.  Mom is a great cook and knows how to make great comfort food on a tight budget.  When my grandma was alive, I came to her often for advice on gardening and she shared many perennials with me. I have canned beans, pickles, applesauce, tomato sauce and peaches over the years.  This fall my closest friends and I are hoping to spend a day canning together.  While I have a lot to learn, I hope I can also help some that haven’t done this yet.  Such as giving the advice, “Don’t screw the jar lids on tight before they are sealed . . . they will never come off!”  I learned this last year when I made beautiful canned peaches, that will probably simply be decoration for years to come, as no one can get the lids off!   

As I write this post, I have to admit I have a bit of apprehension.  I fear someone reading this will view this blog as treating women as subserviant or second class citizens.  Somehow they might see my promoting domesticity as promoting women to give up their rights or freedoms.  But does doing things to bless our family make us less of an independent woman?  Does this somehow take away our rights and freedoms?  By no means.  We were created to worship the Lord and what better way to do this than to bless our family, the very people God has entrusted us to take care of.  I am a woman . . . hear me roar . . . but let my roaring be for the right things . . . for standing up for what really matters and protecting those I care about.  To roar and carry on about our “rights” and to push for things that are outside of the will of God, is not what we were created for.  Having a home that is full of love, peace and harmony in no way compromises our rights or our independence.  Whether you work outside of the house, run your own business as I do, or are a homemaker, there is no reason why we should ever think making our homes and family a priority is somehow beneath us.  If it is, it is time to really re-evaluate your priorities. It is an honor to be able to bless those we love. 

One of my favorite aspects of the whole Betty Crocker phenomenom is this creed they created at the time they started the Home Legion clubs.  Each club member would be sent a copy of this creed in the mail  This creed now resides on my refrigerator and is a great reminder of the woman I want to be.

So what are you waiting for . . . go get that apron on!
With Hugs & Blessings,
Betty   Brenda


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