By Pamela Kaufman
Updated March 31, 2015

Icon or kitsch? Betty Crocker—a cooking doyenne invented in 1921 to help peddle Gold Medal flour—is both. Susan Marks's Finding Betty Crocker, due out next month, is a lively quasi-biography that asks, Just what does it mean to be a happy homemaker? Whether teaching women in the '30s about "Foods Men Like" or telling them how to stretch wartime rations, the Betty Crocker radio programs reached millions; the launch of her cake mixes in 1952 helped usher in a new era of convenience foods. Despite a few dark moments—in 1972 NOW filed a lawsuit attacking Betty's image as both racist and sexist—Betty Crocker emerges as a true advocate of the hard-working housewife. Not bad for a woman whose constantly changing portrait suggests someone with a serious identity crisis.