Whenever I learn about someone from history that is truly fascinating, I have a two step process. Step one, I get angry that I never learned about this person in school. Step two, I share it on the blog. Today we have Rose Knox. (**I have also talked about The Night Witches, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and The Anti-Flirt Club.**)
Making gelatin back in the day sounds like a truly pleasant experience, one of those that makes me reconsider whether or not I would survive living prior to 1900. (You know, should time travel suddenly become viable.)
To make gelatin at home, you have to boil beef bones for hours on end. Then you strain the resulting liquid, skim the fat, and boil it. Again. Then you boil it. Again. And again. And again. Once chilled, congrats, you have a wiggling glob of gelatin. Back in the olden days, women would also clarify the gelatin with egg whites. Yum. This was a lot of work to through for a freaking gelatin mold.
Charles Knox watched his wife go through all of that and knew there had to be an easier way. He and his wife Rose purchased a discontinued gelatin company in New York in the 1890s.
Charles ran the company and Rose wrote the promotional cookbooks that were given away with Knox Gelatin purchases. Over a million of her cookbooks were given away each year.
Rose Knox took over as president and CEO of the Knox Gelatin Company after her husband’s death in 1908. Immediately, she made changes. One of the first changes was to get rid of the “women’s only” door at the rear of the Knox building. She said:
“We are all ladies and gentlemen working together here, and we’ll all come through the front door.”
Another change was to ensure the factory was sanitary. (I tip my hat to her on that one.)
Rose also changed how the gelatin was marketed. She redirected marketing toward women, the people that bought and used gelatin the most.
In 1913, she instituted an unheard of five-day work week, two weeks’ paid vacation, and sick leave. During the Depression, she did not want to fire any employees. To cut costs, she cut back on business expense instead of laying off workers. The Knox Company actually grew during the Depression.
Rose remained president of the company until 1947, when her son took over. Rose remained the Chairman of the Board, however.
Next time you buy gelatin, please remember this badass lady.