By Lisa Carolin
Mabel Holmes lived from 1890-1977 and is credited with inventing America’s first ever prepared baking mix, which she named “Jiffy Biscuit Mix.” It was introduced during the Great Depression, and today, thanks to Mabel Holmes’ idea, the Chelsea Milling Company is still going strong.
Now the Chelsea entrepreneur is being inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. The event takes place Oct. 29 at the Kellogg Center and Hotel in East Lansing, and Holmes will be one of 10 women inducted this year.
There are 260 women in the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame, all whom are honored with a commemorative plaque.
“We have a panel of judges for two categories – historic and contemporary, deceased or living,” explained Emily Fijol, executive director of the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame. “Mabel Holmes is a combination of an inventor and an early business woman. Jiffy Mix has had an enduring legacy, and girls today can learn lessons from that.”
Holmes’ grandson, Howdy Holmes, president and CEO of the Chelsea Milling Company, will be speaking at the induction.
“I think it’s long overdue quite frankly,” said Howdy Holmes.”It was 85 years ago that she developed the first ever retail prepared mix that had significant impact on all of our lives.”
Jiffy was marketed in its early days as a way to make biscuits that was “so easy even a man could do it.”
“She was an outstanding individual and very much an entrepreneur,” said Howdy Holmes. “Back in those days, in the late 1920s, when she came up with this idea and then introduced it in April of 1930, the idea of women being entrepreneurs was pretty foreign, at least getting acknowledgement for it.”
On a personal level, Howdy Holmes remembers his grandmother as, “an easy person to talk to and quite a sophisticated and very stately lady.”
Mabel Holmes was widowed in 1936 when her husband was killed in an accident at Chelsea Milling Company. She took over the business and was joined by her twin sons, Howard and Dudley Holmes.
“Despite what their ambitions and aspirations were, they and my grandmother instantly had this business on their hands,” said Howdy Holmes, who joined the business in 1963. “Mabel was active in it until the early 1940s at which time she had faith in her sons running the company and didn’t feel she needed to be here on a daily basis.”
Mabel Holmes passed away in 1977 when Howdy Holmes was in his thirties.
“As I grew up, I started to develop a greater appreciation for what she’s done and a greater appreciation for this business,” said Howdy Holmes.
The Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame was established in 1983 and is located in the Michigan Women’s Historical Center, located at 213 W. Malcom X Street in downtown Lansing. It’s operated by the Michigan Women’s Studies Association, a non-profit 501c3 organization.
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