In 1899, Orator Francis Woodward bought the patent to Jell-O from its inventor for $450. The sale would turn out to be one of the most profitable business deals in American history, and generations of his family enjoyed immense privilege - but they were also haunted by suicides, cancer, alcoholism, and mysterious ailments.
Allie Rowbottom’s mother, Mary, niece of Jell-O matriarch Edith Woodward, grew up in the shadow of this privilege. When more than 100 years after the Jell-O deal was struck, Mary was diagnosed with cancer, the same disease that had claimed her own mother's life, she became determined to combat what she had come to consider the "Jell-O curse" and her looming mortality. Mary began obsessively researching her family's past, determined to understand the origins of her illness and the impact on her life of Jell-O and the traditional American values the company championed. Before she died in 2015, Mary began to send Allie boxes of her research and notes, in the hope that her daughter might write what she could not. JELL-O GIRLS is the liberation of that story.
An examination of the dark side of an iconic American product and a portrait of the women who lived in the shadow of its fractured fortune, JELL-O GIRLS is a family history, a feminist history, and a story of motherhood, love and loss. Throughout, Rowbottom considers the roots of trauma not only in her own family, but in the American psyche as well, ultimately weaving a story that is deeply personal, as well as deeply connected to the collective female experience
A New York Times Editors’ Choice
One of People Magazine's Best Books of Summer
An Amazon Best Book of the Month
An Indie Next Pick
A Real Simple Best Book of 2018
AVAILABLE NOW IN PAPERBACK
In Jell-O Girls, a Dark Family History Behind a Candy Colored Dessert, The New York Times, 2018
How Patriarchy Imprinted Itself on the Family Who Created Jell-O, The New York Times Book Review, 2018
Jell-O Girls: The Broke the Mold, The Wall Street Journal, 2018