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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Entrepreneur and food columnist Nettie Caroline Williams was born on November 24, 1887, in South Dakota. Her parents were Edward L. and Lucy Rank Williams. She majored in home economics at the Stout Institute in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Circa 1909 Williams moved to Claremore, Oklahoma, where she taught home economics. Two years later she supervised the home economics department for the Muskogee schools. In 1913 she married Samuel Pendleton McBirney, football coach, civic leader, and vice president of the National Bank of Commerce in Tulsa. The couple had four children.

In 1935 Nettie McBirney approached the Tulsa World about writing a food column that would give cooking advice and techniques. Hired by the newspaper, she earned fifteen dollars a week and used the pseudonym "Aunt Chick" to write a food column known as the "Kitchen Log." It appeared five days a week for twenty years, from 1935 to 1955. She gave lectures and cooking demonstrations at Tulsa department stores and other venues. However, McBirney's claim to fame came in 1948 when she developed her famous three-dimensional cookie cutters known as Gramma's Cutters. Made from a special plastic that easily released the cookie dough, they were nationally and internationally marketed. She also made improvements to kitchen gadgets such as a pastry canvas, a rolling pin cover that prevented dough from sticking to it, and a pie pan that promised perfect pie crusts. In 1939 she published Aunt Chick's Pies.

McBirney served as chair of the women's division of the United Way Fund and as chair and manager of the Tulsa Junior League Tea Room. When McBirney moved to a retirement home in 1973, she donated her collection of more than one thousand cookbooks to the Tulsa City-County Library. She continued to give cooking demonstrations to the retirement home residents. She died on December 16, 1982, and was buried in Rose Hill Memorial Park in Tulsa. Her husband preceded her in death on January 20, 1936.

Linda D. Wilson


"McBirney Family," Vertical File, Tulsa City-County Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"Mrs. Sam McBirney," Vertical File, Oklahoma Room, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City.

"Nettie Caroline Williams McBirney," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Robert Rutland, "Gridiron Pioneers at Henry Kendall College," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 29 (Fall 1951).

Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 9 December 1973, 17 December 1982, and 16 June 2007.

Tulsa (Oklahoma) Tribune, 23 April 1958 and 17 December 1982.

Nancy Woodard, "Cuttin' Out: These Cookie Cutters Are Hot Chicks!" Oklahoma Today 50 (November-December 2000).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “Aunt Chick (McBirney, Nettie Caroline Williams),” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=AU005.

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