Marguerite, the Sun-Maid Raisin Girl

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Around the time I was really pregnant, all I craved was raisin bran cereal. It was comforting to me and made my growing belly happy. It’s suiting that both my children love raisin bran today!

Raisins also remind me of my grandmother. That red box was always there…used in oatmeal, granola, cookies, cakes, bread, and salads. Fresh, chewy and plump raisins are perfect on there own too…enjoying raisins in any way can truly give you a nostalgic feeling and a reason to smile.

My children have an even better relationship with the little red box than I do. They will happily skip down the snack aisle at the grocery store to say hello to their distant cousin, Marguerite, the Sun-Maid raisin girl. “Can we go see our cousin and put her in our basket?” It’s makes everyone smile when they open up the pantry and see her kind face.

My husband’s parents have roots in California that run deep. The very first Sun-Maid raisin girl was a great, great, great cousin on my husband’s Mom’s side.

The Sun-Maid raisin girl came about when Marguerite’s Dad (William Banks) invented a new process for drying raisins and began to deal with the Sun-Maid raisin company. William Banks had a picture of his daughter, Marguerite, holding a basket of raisins…Sun-Maid liked it and decided to use the idea of having Marguerite as the spokes person for raisins! The company bought his photo and she became the very first Sun-Maid raisin girl.

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Marguerite Evelyn Cecilia Banks was born in 1888. She would later change her name to Namara, after her Irish mother’s maiden name, McNamara.

Marguerite Namara was a real renaissance women! Her success as the Sun-Maid raisin girl was only the beginning! She was also a famous opera singer, an accomplished pianist, an artist who studied under Claude Monet and a silent screen movie star. Marguerite’s fast-paced life included running with an eclectic group…she was friends with Isadora Duncan, Rudolph Valentino and Charlie Chaplin.

We know her best as the raisin girl. This is a picture of my daughter dressed as Marguerite for culture day.

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Our favorite raisin recipe to make is oatmeal cookies. Raisin cookies are so comforting with there soft and chewy texture and buttery sweet flavor…it’s a bonus that raisins are a great source of vitamins and iron. These old fashioned raisin cookies are easy and quick to make.  Bake them until the centers are still soft and just beginning to turn brown yet their edges are a lovely golden brown color. Think of Marguerite when you enjoy them.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

2 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon backing soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups of raisins
1/2 cup pecans

  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • cream the butter, sugars, and vanilla in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth.
  • Mix the flour, baking soada and salt together. Add to the creamed mixture gradually and mix well.
  • Stir in the oats, raisins and nuts.
  • Drop by rouonded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool on the cookie sheets a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Marguerite Namara said in an interview in 1954 that her dream would be “...to live on a farm, preferably somewhere near Monterey. I’ve never before given myself a real vacation, and it would do me a world of good. No telephones ringing, nobody to powder the old nose for, or rouge the lips. Just to go about as is, in old loose clothing, would be close to being in paradise.” 

I imagine that her red bonnet suited her very well.

 

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