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Mary Kay Ash. In her office, Dallas, Texas, January 1982. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Ash, Mary Kay (12 May 1918–22 November 2001), founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, known as Mary Kay, was born Mary Kathlyn Wagner in Hot Wells, Texas, north of Houston, the daughter of Edward Alexander Wagner, an invalid, and Lula Vember Hastings, a restaurant manager. Texas has no record of Mary Kathlyn Wagner's birth for 1918—the year she usually claimed—nor for 1916, the date cited second most often; she may have been born as early as 1915. By 1920, her family moved to Houston's bleak Sixth Ward....

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Bernays, Doris Elsa Fleischman (18 July 1892–10 July 1980), pioneer public relations counsel and early feminist, was born in New York City, the daughter of Samuel E. Fleischman, an attorney, and Harriet Rosenthal. Doris studied music and planned to become an opera singer when she completed her bachelor’s degree at Barnard College in 1913. Instead, that same year she joined the ...

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Cannon, Poppy (2 Aug. 1905–1 April 1975), cookbook author, journalist, and advertising executive, was born Lillian Gruskin in Cape Town, South Africa, to Robert and Henrietta Gruskin, Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. (Henrietta’s maiden name is unknown.) The family moved to the United States in ...

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Carse, Matilda Bradley (19 November 1835–03 June 1917), temperance worker, editor, and entrepreneur, was born near Belfast, Ireland, the daughter of John Bradley and Catherine Cleland, Scottish merchants whose ancestors had migrated to Ireland in the seventeenth century. Educated in Ireland, Carse emigrated in 1858 to Chicago. In 1861 she married Thomas Carse, a railroad manager with whom she had three sons. After her husband’s death in 1870, her youngest son was killed by a drunken drayman, propelling Carse into the temperance cause just as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was organizing. She devoted much of the rest of her life to business and volunteer activities related to that organization....

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Coston, Martha J. (1829–12 Jan, 1904), inventor and businesswoman, was born Martha Jane Hunt in Baltimore, Maryland (parents unknown). She moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a child with her widowed mother and siblings. By her own account she had a happy childhood, was a studious child, and enjoyed the constant companionship of her mother as well as a lively household filled with her brothers and sisters....

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Daché, Lilly (1892?–31 December 1989), hat and fashion designer and entrepreneur, was born in Bègles, France. Because of her unconventional red hair, skinny figure, and preference for using her left hand, Daché’s parents (names unknown) considered her both plain and clumsy, and in later years she attributed her desire to create beauty to an early need to feel attractive and thereby loved. Even as a child Daché decorated her hair with cherries and flower garlands and cut up her mother’s clothes to make hats of her own design. Daché began her millinery training with her aunt, a dressmaker in Bordeaux, but talent and ambition soon led to a four-year apprenticeship with Caroline Reboux in Paris. She later worked for both Suzanne Talbot and Georgette, also noted Parisian milliners....

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Dreyfus, Camille Edouard (11 November 1878–27 September 1956), industrial chemist and entrepreneur, was born in Basel, Switzerland, the son of Abraham Dreyfus, a banker, and Henrietta Wahl. Camille and his younger brother, Henri (later Americanized to Henry), both received their education at the University of Basel, being awarded their Ph.D.s in chemistry in 1902 and 1905, respectively. Camille also pursued postgraduate study at the Sorbonne in Paris until 1906. After working several years in Basel to gain industrial experience, Camille and his brother established a chemical laboratory in their home town. Seeking a product that the public would readily buy, they developed a synthetic indigo. Although they made some money in this venture, it quickly became clear that synthetic indigo did not have a sufficient market. Consequently the Dreyfus brothers focused their attention on celluloid, which at that time was produced only in a flammable form. They recognized that a large potential market existed for nonflammable celluloid, if it could be developed. They focused on cellulose acetate and were shortly producing one to two tons per day. Half of their output went to the motion picture industry for film, with the other half going into the production of toilet articles....

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Everleigh, Ada (15 February 1876–03 January 1960), and Minna Everleigh (13 July 1878–16 September 1948), businesswomen, were born in rural Kentucky, the daughters of a prosperous lawyer whose last name was Lester. Their mother’s name is unknown. They received little education. The sisters married brothers in 1897, but both husbands proved to be violent brutes, and the sisters left them after less than a year. Ada and Minna left Kentucky in 1898 and settled in Omaha, Nebraska, where they worked as prostitutes during the Trans-Mississippi Exhibition and eventually invested in a brothel. The closing of the fair led to a shortage of customers, and the sisters decided to head for more lucrative surroundings. With money inherited from their father they traveled to Chicago and on 1 February 1900 opened the famous Everleigh Club in the heart of the city’s vice district, known as the Levee District. They had assumed the name Everleigh at some point and used it throughout their residence in Chicago. Within a year they employed thirty women and achieved a national reputation for providing entertainment for men. “Minna and Ada Everleigh are to pleasure what Christ was to Christianity,” a reporter wrote....

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See Everleigh, Ada

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Fishback Antolini, Margaret (10 March 1900–25 September 1985), poet and advertising copywriter, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Frederick Lewis Fishback and Mabel Coleman. Her parents' occupations are unknown. She graduated from Central High School (now Cardozo Senior High School) in Washington, D.C., in 1917 and went on to Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, from which she graduated as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1921. She taught English and history at Columbia Junior High School in Washington, D.C., for her first year after college. The next year she found a job in New York City in the organizational department of Tamblyn & Brown, a prominent fund-raising firm, but she soon found more creative work in the advertising division of R. H. Macy & Company, where she was quickly promoted. In 1926 she started at Macy's as an assistant copywriter, and in two weeks she was promoted to divisional copywriter. From 1930 to 1942 she held the rank of institutional advertisement writer, and from 1940 to 1942 she was chief copywriter for the company....

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Fleischman, Doris E. (18 July 1891–10 July 1980), public relations counsel, was born in New York City, the daughter of Samuel E. Fleischman, a lawyer, and Harriet Rosenthal. She received a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in 1913 and the next year was hired as a women’s page writer by the ...

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Hicks, Beatrice Alice (2 Jan. 1919–21 Oct. 1979), engineer, inventor, and business executive, was born Beatrice Alice Hickstein to Florence Benedict Neben and William Lux Hickstein in Orange, New Jersey. She often recounted that she was drawn to the field of engineering at the age of thirteen when her father, a chemical engineer, took her to see the Empire State Building and the George Washington Bridge. Amazed by the structures, she inquired who built them, and upon learning they were designed by engineers, she decided that she wanted to become one as well. As a student at Orange High School, she enjoyed mathematics, physics, chemistry, and mechanical drawing. Her academic interests and professional aspirations, however, received little support from her family, friends, and teachers. Her parents, concerned with having to finance special schooling for Beatrice’s younger sister, Margaret, who was born with an intellectual disability, encouraged her to study stenography instead. Meanwhile, she encountered outright opposition from her classmates and some of her teachers, who made a point of telling her that engineering—where women made up less than one percent of the profession—was not a suitable field for female students....

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Edna Hopper Seated in her berth on a train. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95412).

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Hopper, Edna Wallace (17 January 1864?–14 December 1959), actress, entrepreneur, and financier, was born and raised in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Walter Wallace. (Her mother’s identity is unknown.) Little is verifiable about her early years, except that she was educated at the Van Ness Seminary, as public records were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. She began her stage career on a whim when, at a reception, she met and charmed comedian Roland Reed into issuing her an invitation to join his company. In August 1891 she made her debut as Mabel Douglas in the musical comedy ...

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Hummert, Anne (19 January 1905–05 July 1996), radio producer and advertising executive, was born Anna Mary Schumacher and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, the oldest of four children of Frederick Schumacher, whom census records list as a steamfitter and a contractor, and Anna Lance Schumacher. At some point in her youth, she began using the name Anne rather than Anna. She loved to write and was attracted to journalism while still in high school, writing an advice column for the ...

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Husted, Marjorie Child (1892?–23 December 1986), public relations consultant, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Sampson Reed Child, a lawyer, and Alice Alberta Webber. Her first experience as a businesswoman was at the state fair, where she sold incubators, an exhibit her father acquired from a client in lieu of cash. A fortune-teller told her that she would make money by her own efforts, but she thought the idea crazy since no women she knew did such a thing....

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Knight, Sarah Kemble (19 April 1666–25 September 1727), diarist and businesswoman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Thomas Kemble, a merchant, and Elizabeth Trerice. She married Richard Knight of Boston, of whom little is known, and had one child.

The Boston census in 1707 recorded that Sarah Knight, then a widow, headed her deceased father’s Moon Street household and shop. She kept boarders and may also have taught school. Knowledgeable about law, she served as a copier of legal documents and witness to one hundred or more deeds. In 1704, she traveled to New York to settle a family estate, keeping a diary of her journey that was first published in 1825 in ...

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Mandelbaum, Fredericka (27 February 1827–26 February 1894), criminal entrepreneur, was born Friederike Weisner in Hessen-Kassel, Germany to Regine (Rahel Lea) Weisner (nee Solling) and Samuel Abraham Weisner, a merchant. Their occupations are unknown. Nothing specific is known of her early life and education....

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Meloney, Marie Mattingly (8 Dec. 1878–23 June 1943), editor, journalist, and public relations pioneer, was born Marie Mattingly in Bardstown, Kentucky. She was the youngest daughter of Peter Cyprian Mattingly, a physician, and Sarah Irwin, a college graduate and editor of Kentucky Magazine...