Chances are, unless you were from Mississippi c. 1935, you are not familiar with the Queen of Yohomia. It is, after all, a look back at a period in time with the foresight of 85 years of experience. Other than the Mississippi newspaper advertisements for the year 1935, I only found one mention of Yohomia–in a 1787 Pennsylvania Archives report that indicated the Ohio County of Pennsylvania had been formerly named Yohomia. That may have been a transcription error, as any attempts to find Yohomia/Ohio county Pennsylvania during that time period did not turn up the term, although Yohogania County appeared. As autocorrect is want to do, a search for Queen of Yohomia asks if you mean “Queen of Bohemia”–‘ya know, just in case you cannot spell the subject you are researching.
Yes, I confess to immediately dropping my jaw in amazement…because, well, you know. First up, there was that whole “Yohomia” thing which is clearly a Mississippi languaging of your home. It defies my imagination as to how anyone could think that was a good idea, and then smack dab in the middle of Jim Crow and its history, “if you are a slave.” The tiny print goes on to clarify that Yohomia is “the Empire within the walls of your home”–again, in Mississippi where empires known as plantations defined the culture of the south and race relations.
But now, it is 1935 and we are mightily concerned with selling modern appliances to the modern housewife, i.e. her new servants–“for the modern Queen of Yohomia.”
Queen of Yohomia was the brainchild of George Godwin, the advertising and publicity manager of the Mississippi Power & Light Company. Godwin is credited with the Queen of Yohomia, and its “cooking schools” held in towns across the Mississippi Delta during April, May, and June of 1935. In conjunction with Mississippi Power & Light, local businesses served as sponsors, such as the grocery store and appliance store. Two cooking “experts” provided the cooking demonstrations. Miss Mary Alice Willis and Mrs. Doris Green were home economists employed by Mississippi Power & Light featured in the advertisements. A “talkie” ten-minute motion picture was featured as part of the demonstration. Titled “The Queen of Yohomia”, it was billed as “interesting,” “most outstanding sound film ever produced in the interest of Home Modernization,” “a pioneer production in home modernization,” and “depicts in truly romantic fashion the advantages of home modernization and complete home service.”
Yes, you, too, could have been part of the fantasy of “freedom” from those dreaded daily chores of cooking, laundry, and other joys of home management–released from bondage by the addition of electricity. Cities offered the cooking school and “crowning event of 1935”–the contest for the Queen of Yohomia, where young attractive women (rather than actual wives running the home) competed for the honor of being crowned Queen, dressed of course in “house dresses appropriate for the housewife and shoulder streamers designating the firms they represented.”
It may just be me, but I fail to see how crowning a “popular local girl representing the McComb Bakery” as the Queen of Yohomia helped convince housewives and their husbands that this was beneficial to their freedom, let alone discovery of the treasure map of Yohomia where x marks the spot where freedom is found.
Finally, let’s not forget those “latest tempting recipes” that were shown, such as the “Yohomia Special.”
One cup and one quarter of rice is cooked in six cups of water, and formed into an oval border on an oblong platter. Inside the ring of rice is roughly arranged by tablespoonsful three cups of mashed Hubbard squash, and inside this go four cups of cooked French white turnip balls. The center is filled with a pint of fresh green peas. The whole, with or without the addition of a cheese sauce, should serve eight persons. A green salad may follow, and with a fruit pie for top-off the dinner should please a vegetarian. (Semi-Weekly Journal, May 7, 1935, p.8)
Because so many husbands in 1935 were vegetarians? I love vegetables, and rice, but this does not sound appetizing in the least, and frankly, with white rice, orange squash, white turnips, green peas, and cheese sauce, it does not produce a pretty picture in my mind either.
Godwin resigned from advertising and publicity manager of the Mississippi Power & Light Company “in order to devote his entire time to Dixie Advertisers, Inc., Jackson, of which he has been president and general manager since its organization in March 1937″ (Godwin to Leave Post with MP&L, Clarion-Ledger, Nov. 21, 1937, p. 13). Godwin said his goal was to build an agency “thoroughly capable of presenting the story of Mississippi and Mississippi products to the entire nation.” His work was reported to have received nation-wide attention as he was credited with the characters “Chill Chaser” (natural gas heaters) and “Happy Homer” (symbol of modern home service). His sales activities “The Queen of Yohomia” was reported as among those that have “kept the Mississippi Power & Light Company listed among the most alert advertisers in the utility field.”
In 1956, Godwin changed the name of the agency to Godwin Advertising Agency due to opening an office in New York. “The regional name of ‘Dixie’ could not apply well to a national organization” (Congratulations to Godwin Advertising Agency, Mar 5, 1956, Enterprise-Journal, p. 2.). Godwin died in 1968.