A major inspiration, Agnes B. Marshall was a legendary woman who has not received anywhere near her due appreciation in history! We, as a company, would likely not exist, along with most other frozen dessert or ice cream brands, without her fingerprint on the world. Her legacy echoes through the spoons of time with the depth and range of her work and impact, finding every opportunity to make exquisite frozen dessert-experiences accessible, all while experimenting, taking risks to break through societal expectations, and boldly using her platform to speak truth to power, all while making a positive difference in the lives of people across broad classes of society. Here is our brief highlight of her Sweet life:
Agnes B. Marshall: The Forgotten Super Entrepreneur of Frozen Desserts; The Victorian Queen of Ice Cream (August 24, 1855 - July 29, 1905)
In 1870, it became legal in England for a woman to buy property with her own money. So at age 28 in 1883, she did just that, and purchased a building in London to open a cooking school. Within a year, she grew from zero students taking her classes to full groups of 40 pupils each, teaching 5-6 days a week. After 2 years in business, she published Book of Ices, showing the Victorian middle class how to make frozen desserts and ice cream in their home.
In response to her book’s popularity, she invented a hand-cranked ice-cream maker for at-home use (which some say was more reliable and faster than modern models).
After people could make ice cream at home, she was right there again with molds to help with storage and styling of their icy treats. She managed coppersmiths & pewterers to make the operation a success, and cross-sold her molds to her readers.
She continued to innovate rapidly, going on to create and sell more accessible methods of freezing and refrigeration. This increased demand for ice imports in the UK, boosting ice-harvesting industries in Norway and the USA (such as from the former North Pond here in Worcester, MA)!
In 1886, 3 years after buying her property and opening her business, she started a weekly magazine, The Table, featuring recipes, tips for seasonal foods, and table settings, while being outspoken on a wide range of issues through the years, from decrying the rise of eating out of tin cans, to disgust at how rich people treated kitchen servants poorly, saying, “one despairs of reform in this direction, we are a foolishly patient nation.” In 1889, on Women’s Rights, “if energy can accomplish that for which, if justice were done, there would be no more need to fight, then [Marian] Farquharson may be sure of realising her hopes.” (Farquharson was an emminent suffragist in Scotland and focused on the promotion of Women’s public works)
Concurrently, she ran an employment agency to help cooks and kitchen workers find work, and also helped clients design, supply, and install complete kitchens across the UK.
With not enough going on, she started a lecturing tour in England in 1892, touring major cities to audiences of up to 600 people. She continued to write, and diversified further to baking powder, Coralline pepper, high-quality extracts, flavors, coloring, plus other equipment and ingredients, totaling more than 600 products in her catalogue. A pioneer of the ice cream cone and of wild flavors that make today’s seem blasé, plus making liquid nitrogen ice cream in 1901!
Tragically she passed before the age of 50 and through a series of unfortunate circumstances she’s been forgotten to much of the world: many of her writings were mismanaged and taken out of print for nearly a century following her death after her estate and publishing rights were sold to Ward Lock & Co. meaning that the judgement to publish Marshall’s entrepreneurial and bold work was up to the the publisher of "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management”; after a London fire decades later at Ward Lock & Co., all of her patent archives were lost; and after her husband took over her business following her passing it eventually failed leaving little left of her once vast business empire, her “one-woman industry”.
With how prolific she was, we can only wonder where we might all be had she lived a few more decades, or had her legacy been in better hands. All the more reason to savor the today’s flavor and do what we can to lift others up and make our echos in the spoons of time be Sweet ones!
“Mrs. Marshall was a unique one-woman industry... She deserves far more credit than she has been given by history.” - Robin Weir (Biographer)
“Ices and Ice Creams” Agnes B. Marshall, 1885,Introduction by Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, 1976 Forward by Robin Weir, 2013, Random House Limited
“Meet Agnes B. Marshall, the Victorian Queen of Ice Cream” Brigit Katz, September 5, 2019, MentalFloss.com
“The 19th-century entrepreneur who pioneered modern ice cream” Michael Waters, August 9, 2020, TheHustle.co (photo credit for portrait with ice cream backgrounds)
“Cooks & Other People; Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, 1995” Harlan Walker, Prospect Books
“Fancy Ices: Mrs. Agnes Marshall, Queen of Ices” Pandiajara, December 16, 2020, Documentary & Oral History Studio, Loyola University New Orleans, DocStudio.org
“The Appearance of Women’s Politics in the Correspondence Pages of Aberdeen Newspapers, 1900–14,” Sarah Pedersen, Women’s History Review, Volume 11, Number 4, 2002, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, United Kingdom