Adelaide Hawley Cumming

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Adelaide Hawley Cumming (born Dieta Adelaide Fish; March 6, 1905 – December 21, 1998) was a vaudeville performer, radio host, television star and living trademark for General Mills, and in later years, a teacher.

Early career[edit]

Cumming studied piano and voice at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, and later joined with two friends to form a vaudeville trio, "Red, Black and Gold", with hair dyed accordingly.

From 1937 to 1950, she was host of the Adelaide Hawley Program first on NBC Radio and then on CBS Radio. A daily news and talk radio show, it was broadcast nationwide, attracting an estimated 3 million listeners. She also hosted the TV show Fashions on Parade on DuMont from 1948 to 1949, and on ABC in 1949.

Betty Crocker and General Mills[edit]

From 1949 to 1964, she played "Betty Crocker", as a living trademark for General Mills. Billed as America's First Lady of Food., she became the most recognizable woman in America, second only to Eleanor Roosevelt. Her half-hour Betty Crocker Show was shown on CBS from 1950 to 1952, followed by Betty Crocker Star Matinee and Bride and Groom, both for ABC in 1952. She did walk-on commercials during the George Burns and Gracie Allen comedy series, introduced by lines such as, I don't know how to bake a cake, Gracie, but here is Betty Crocker to show us how. In 1964, seeking a more sophisticated image, General Mills dropped Cumming.

Later life[edit]

After being dropped by General Mills, she returned to school, earning a doctoral degree in speech education from New York University in 1967. In a 1997 interview, Cumming, a feminist in private life, recalled instructing her daughter to tell curiosity-seekers that "I am the current incarnation of a corporate image. That'll shut them up".

Her first husband, Mark Hawley, was an announcer and was known as the voice of the Pathe Newsreels. She and her husband were charter members of the American Federation of Radio Artists, now the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. She moved to the Pacific Northwest with her second husband, Naval Air Cmdr. Laurence Gordon Cumming, and taught English as a second language, which she continued until December 18, 1998, giving her final class three days before her death. She died on December 21, 1998, at Harrison Hospital, Bremerton, Washington, aged 93.

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