Women who could make good bread were valuable commodities

“Lois is such a little girl that she had to get on her knees on the stool in the cooking
laboratory in order to knead her bread,” an official from the college in Ames said. The
spokesperson was describing how Lois Edmonds, an 11-year- old girl from Page County, became the best breadmaker in Iowa in 1912.

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The Clarinda girl had entered a contest sponsored by Successful Farming magazine. The college in Ames coordinated the competition, providing the recipe and their laboratory as a kitchen. Over 6,000 young bakers competed; but Lois was named the best.

Her reward included an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she would meet President William Howard Taft. And, she was promised the opportunity to bake her prize-winning bread in the White House kitchen, where she would demonstrate her techniques to the president’s cooks. The president would taste Lois’ bread too.

“Wonder how big the White House kitchen is and what kind of flour they use?” the
Quad-City Times reported Lois asked.

Lois had followed the recipe that the college provided: butter, sugar, scaled milk, salt, yeast, and, of course, flour. How much? Enough to allow the baker to work the dough “without sticking to the hands or board.”

Lois may have had a secret ingredient in her bread. She said she used flour that had been manufactured in Page County. Or maybe Lois’ kneading techniques—working the dough until “you hear a snapping, cracking sound” made the difference.

Lois never got to bake bread for the president. As the Leon Journal-Reporter reported, “Red Tape” stood in her way. Someone realized there were rules in place that prevented access to the White House kitchen by strangers and that outlawed food preparation for the president by anyone other than the regular cooks.

Lois did get to meet the commissioner of education, Dr. V.P. Claxton, who heaped praise on the Iowa girl. He told her any woman who could feed the family better than another woman was “more valuable than the man who invents things.”

“I just baked it. I always like to cook and mamma says my bread was good,” Lois said
when asked about her award-winning baking skills.



“Will Bake Bread for the President,” Quad-City Times, Feb. 1, 1912.

“Down at Washington,” Leon Journal-Reporter, Feb. 15, 1912.

“Looker-On in Iowa,” Evening Times-Republican, Feb. 27, 1912.

“Girl Who Is Famous For Making Bread,” Quad-City Times, July 23, 1912.

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