In TPT’s new history documentary Flour Power, you will be introduced to milling’s key characters C.C. Washburn, Charles Pillsbury, and James Ford Bell. But you can’t tell the story of milling, food industry, and its holistic impact on Minnesota without acknowledging a person who is more recognizable than any of these miller bros but who didn’t actually exist. Betty Crocker was the kitchen confidante created by Washburn Crosby (General Mills) to answer customer questions, pass on recipes and tips, and generally affirm the American housewife while helping up sales of food products.
Betty has been rendered in ads, on products, and on screen for nearly a century. But it’s important to acknowledge the real women who answered letters, developed products, and hosted tours at test kitchens. We were excited to interview one of them. Barbara Jo Davis was hired by General Mills in 1968. Davis had a hand in developing Hamburger Helper, welcomed tours to the test kitchens, worked in publishing. She even traveled the nation to work with homemakers in their kitchens to refine recipes and products.
Even when she left General Mills she was blazing trails as she worked with her husband to launch his Ken Davis BBQ Sauce. She ran the company after his death.
Leadership, maternal kindness, advanced culinary skills, and ever the charming hostess, Barbara Davis is, in many ways, Betty Crocker.
Learn more about Betty Crocker history in Susan Mark’s book Finding Betty Crocker.
This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.