Women's History Month: Featuring Founder Ruth Wakefield

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Women's History Month: Featuring Ruth Wakefield, Founder of Toll House Cookies

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Did you know March is Women’s History Month? In 1987, Congress declared the very first “Women’s History Month,” and ever since each President has issued an annual proclamation so designating each March in order to celebrate the vital role of women in American history. This March, the WIN Lab is highlighting some incredible historical women founders.

This week’s founder, Ruth Wakefield, is the inventor of the most popular chocolate chip cookie recipe in the world. Her story demonstrates that happy accidents and discoveries can lead to new product development and a company-pivot that creates overarching success. And, to make the story a bit sweeter, this famous cookie was invented in the home of the Boston WIN Lab - Massachusetts!

Wakefield was an accomplished dietitian and food lecturer who graduated from the Framingham State Norman School Department of Household Arts in 1924. She was a co-owner of the Toll House Inn, where she created recipes for the guests. One day in 1930, she ran out of Baker’s chocolate, a bitter chocolate that was often used in baking cakes or brownies. Ruth was hoping to make chocolate cookies, and so she added broken pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate into the dough, expecting it to melt throughout and create a fully chocolate dough. As you may have anticipated, the chips stayed in tact and chocolate chip cookies were born. In honor of her Inn, Ruth Wakefield deemed the new dessert “Toll House Crunch Cookies”.

As Wakefield’s cookies gained popularity locally, the recipe began to get picked up and published by Boston newspapers. As a result, the Nestle company saw an increase in its semi-sweet chocolate bars grow, and saw a marketing opportunity on the horizon. Determined that placing the recipe on its packaging would increase sales even further, Andrew Nestle printed Wakefield’s Toll House Cookie recipe on its package in exchange for a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate.

Who are some other women food inventors, trail blazers, and founders in history that you admire? Let us know in the comments below.