Voices of Minnesota

Mill City Museum Test Kitchens Oral History Project


DATE: August - September 2002

INTERVIEWER: Linda Cameron

In 2003 the Minnesota Historical Society opened its Mill City Museum on the Minneapolis riverfront. The museum is constructed within the ruins of the Washburn A Mill. The mill was owned and operated by Washburn Crosby Company, a predecessor of General Mills, Inc.

As part of interpretive program development for the Mill City Museum, Interpretive Programs Assistant Linda Cameron conducted oral history interviews with five women who had been employed as home economists for the General Mills and Pillsbury companies at various times during the period 1952 to 1996.

The primary purpose of the interviews was to gain insight into the work of the test kitchens of the two leading flour-milling companies with roots in the Minneapolis milling district. The narrators were asked about the home economists' educational backgrounds, job responsibilities for kitchen staff in various capacities, product development, work environment, department hierarchy, and career opportunities for women at each company. Questions were also asked about staff and public perceptions of the fictitious home economists "Betty Crocker" and "Ann Pillsbury," about promotions such as the Pillsbury Bake-Off and Recipes From the Soul contests, and about the public tour programs.

A secondary purpose for the interviews was to collect information about Ruth Andre Krause, the second Director of the Ann Pillsbury Home Service Center, who will serve as the basis for a "History Player" character in the Baking Lab of the Mill City Museum. Former Pillsbury employees were asked specifically about Ruth's responsibilities and contributions during her fifteen years with the Pillsbury Company.

LENGTH OF INTERVIEWS: 5 hours 10 minutes

TRANSCRIPTS: 143 pages