Was Betty Crocker A Real Person?

In 1945, Fortune magazine proclaimed Betty Crocker the second most popular woman in America following Eleanor Roosevelt, per PBS. She answered letters, appeared in magazines, and hosted radio and television programs. In 1959, her test kitchen at the American National Exhibition in Moscow hosted the "Kitchen Debate;" at the same time, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev debated the concept of capitalism (via General Mills).

Betty Crocker's earliest origins were in 1921. The Washburn-Crosby Company ran a campaign promoting Gold Medal Flour offering a prize to shoppers who solved a jigsaw puzzle. Consumers submitted their answers along with questions about baking techniques, which ultimately inspired Betty's creation.

As the Betty Crocker website explains, the first name Betty was selected because it "sounded friendly." Crocker, meanwhile, was the last name of a Washburn-Crosby employee. According to PBS, the all-male staff believed women would relate better to a female answering their culinary questions. However, it was never just one woman responding to their queries. As one of the legendary "Bettys" told the New York Times in 1973, it "takes more than 60 women to handle the work attributed to her." 

In 1936, artist Neysa McMein created the original portrait of Betty Crocker as inspired by the brand's female employee. She updated her image over the years to reflect other trailblazing women. These are some of the other people who created the Betty Crocker we know today.

Several women crafted the Betty Crocker image

Marjorie Child Husted, a home economics graduate from the University of Minnesota, joined the Washburn-Crosby Company in 1924 as a high-up consultant in advertising, public relations, and home services. She also played Betty on "The Betty Crocker Radio Show" and interviewed Hollywood stars like Joan Crawford and Jean Harlow. President Truman presented her with the first-ever "Woman of the Year" award by the Women's National Press Club in 1948 (via The New York Times).

In 1949, vaudeville actress Adelaide Hawley Cumming was the first to play Betty Crocker for the television age. She hosted the "Betty Crocker Show" on CBS from 1950 to 1952, becoming one of the "most recognizable" faces in the country.

Mercedes Bates, General Mills' first female operating officer who worked as a vice president in charge of the Betty Crocker division from 1964 to 1983, per the Statesman Journal, was a force in honing the Betty Crocker image. With experience as a food magazine editor and advertising food consultant, she helped "make Betty Crocker a household name."