A question that left a lasting impact
“What critical problems may arise if a homemaker attempts to combine marriage and a career?”
That’s a question that has stuck with Suzanne MacDonald throughout her life. And that’s the essay question she answered on the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow test during her senior year of high school in 1966.
“I was quite surprised at the essay question. It was very forward-thinking for 1966. I expected something about sewing or cooking, I didn’t expect it be career oriented,” says MacDonald. “I recall looking out the window and thinking ‘wow, I’ve never thought about that before, but it would be interesting to do both.’”
Without knowing exactly what her future looked like, MacDonald defended the possibility of being able to do both – have a career and be a homemaker.
The test consisted of 150 questions and covered a variety of topics from family relationships, spiritual and moral values, childcare, health and safety to money management and community participation.
Balancing two roles
MacDonald ended up winning the Homemaker of Tomorrow award for her school, St. Francis Xavier Catholic High School in Appleton, Wisconsin.
“I was surprised I won. When my teacher announced to the class that I had won the award, there was lots of laughter. I guess they had seen the cakes I baked in foods class.”
After graduating high school in 1967, Suzanne attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and later became a high school teacher.
After 5 years of teaching, her love for science led her to medical school at the University of Minnesota. She became an emergency physician and later went on to form her own practice group that remains a leading ER service provider in the Twin Cities today.
“After practicing emergency medicine for a while, a group of seven of us, which included three women, decided to form our own practice group. We put our houses on the line to get a loan and established a practice in 1992,” she said.
During this time, MacDonald and her husband raised their two sons.
“I believe taking the test and answering the essay question planted the seed that maybe I can do both. And I did. I went on to have a career in medicine and a family.”
History of the scholarship program
The Betty Crocker Search for the All-American Homemaker of Tomorrow, as it was officially known, was a scholarship program that ran from 1955 to 1977. When it first began, organizers said the purpose of the program was “to focus national attention on the so-called ‘forgotten career’ of homemaking, and on the untiring job being done by America’s high schools to develop citizens and homemakers of the future.”
Scholarship money was awarded at the state and national level. The top winner from each state was flown to Washington D.C., where the national winners were chosen, following a week of competition. Local high school winners received a charm or heart-shaped pin – something many of the recipients still cherish today.
Learn more about the history of Homemaker of Tomorrow program here.