PODCAST: Homemaker of Tomorrow
Mention “The Betty Crocker Search for the American Homemaker of Tomorrow” to anyone who grew up during the program’s era and you’ll likely hear about two things: the test questions and the pins some people were fortunate to earn.
Between 1955 and 1977, several million high school students across the U.S. participated by taking the program’s “Knowledge and Attitude Test,” learning about managing a home, family relationships and more.
The student with the highest score at their high school earned the commemorative pin.
But the real prize was a $1,500 scholarship for the top test score in each state. Because that led to an all-expense paid trip to the program’s national competition, where students had a chance to turn that into a $5,000 scholarship as the national winner.
Consider that $5,000 in 1955 would be close to about $44,000 today.
In its 22 years, the program handed out more than $2.1 million in scholarships.
Originally just for girls, we opened up the Homemaker of Tomorrow to boys in 1973.
Yes, it was aimed at heightening “interest in the world’s number one career: homemaking” – as the test booklet pointed out.
The program and test questions touched on topics like home care, family relationships, child development, money management and more.
“The questions were to make people conscious of a variety of diverse skills that one needed to provide a successful and stable home environment,” says Rose Marie Groppe, who represented Colorado in 1956 in the Homemaker of Tomorrow program. “There were some aspects of those questions that I think are still relevant and would still be well for people to take note of as they are planning their own careers and home family life.”
We talked to Groppe about the program for our podcast this month, which you can listen to below.
She told us about her experience as a state winner, the tours (historic sites in Washington, D.C., Williamsburg, Virginia and Philadelphia) events for the national competition, and the impact of the $1,500 scholarship on her life.
“I was able to get an excellent education, partially with the help of the scholarship,” says Groppe. “The trip experience also was a significant social and educational experience for me. I not only enjoyed it, but I came out of it with an increased sense of personal confidence and a sense that there would be opportunities awaiting me that I could seek out in the future that would help me develop my talents and my abilities.”
So, about those test questions.
Looking back at them today, many do represent the thinking of the day and some situations that we might not necessarily face now.
But, as Groppe suggested, you also can see how they can apply to life in homes across the U.S. today.
Here are five questions from the three decades of the program (the answers are at the bottom of this post):
1. (1955) Ann’s neighbor, Mrs. Baily, has a new sofa. Ann thinks it is hideous. When Mrs. Baily asks Ann how she likes the sofa, Ann should:
A. Be polite and say it is lovely
B. Be honest and tell Mrs. Bailey what she really thinks
C. Make some off-hand comment which says nothing
D. Make some comment about how nice it is to have something new
2. (1956) The most important factor in the development of a child’s personality is:
A. Provision for physical needs, such as food and clothing
B. The emotional attitudes and adjustment of the parents
C. Home opportunity for cultural learning, such as books and music
D. The child’s own inherited qualities
3. (1966) In setting a table, which of the following arrangements is NOT considered correct?
A. Butter spreader next to the salad fork
B. Teaspoon to the right of the knife
C. Water goblet above the knife
D. Napkin to the left of the entire setting
4. (1966) Some couples disagree about whether a husband should help his wife wash the dishes. This is an argument neither side can win, because:
A. There is not enough research available on the question
B. Feelings rather than objective facts are usually at the basis of the disagreement
C. There is one vote for each side
D. There is something to be said in favor of each position
5. (1970) A young married couple have children and their insurance budget is limited. They should plan their family life insurance so that:
A. The wife and husband carry equally large amounts and the children have minimum coverage
B. The husband carried the heaviest insurance and the wife and children have minimum coverage
C. The husband carries the heaviest insurance, the wife carries a smaller amount and the children have minimum coverage
D. Each member of the family has equal coverage
And what about those pins?
Each high school’s winner, each year, received the heart-shaped pin – something many of the recipients covet today.
“I’ve been contacted by numerous people who say they have their pins on display and that they love wearing them, and get a lot of compliments about them,” says Jessica Faucher, corporate archivist at General Mills, who also appears on our podcast, providing much more background on the program. “It was a huge prize for the winners at each high school, but they also are a prized possession here in our archives.”
The December episode of our “A Taste of General Mills” features:
-Information on the origin of The Betty Crocker Search for the American Homemaker of Tomorrow, how it was administered in schools, the inclusion of boys for its final few years and why the program was discontinued
-Rose Marie Groppe, who represented Colorado in 1956, about the activities she took part in at the national competition, and the impact of the program on her life
-Interviews with two other women who won at the high school level, about their experience
It’s easy to listen to our show when you’re on the go. Just listen on any podcast app on your mobile device (search for General Mills) or through iTunes or right here on our blog.
Listen (48 minutes)
SHOW NOTES – Episode 16: December 14, 2016
Test question answers
Editor’s note: In 2016, General Mills is celebrating its 150th anniversary. This story is part of a year-long series on “A Taste of General Mills” to highlight the people, products and projects that have contributed to the company’s legacy.
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