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Brownie Wise
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"Get going ladies! You're not denied the suffrage of success... in fact, you never were.
Mark your wishing ticket well, if you elect to have a better world to live in."
--Brownie Wise
[1]

Brownie Wise, originally Brownie Mae Humphrey, was born in 1913 to a poor Southern family in rural Georgia. Brownie was forced to establish independence at a young age; her parents divorced during her early childhood and her mother's work involved a great deal of travel, leaving Brownie at home relatively un-chaperoned for long periods of time. During her teenage years, Brownie began travelling around with her mother, and giving speeches to local union workers. From a young age, Brownie developed a charismatic and persuasive personality, traits which certainly aided future business endeavors. [2]

In 1936, Brownie met and shortly thereafter married Robert Wise. The couple moved to Detroit and just over a year after marriage, had their first and only child, Jerry Wise. Brownie's marriage to Robert, however, ended almost as quickly as it began due to Robert's alcoholism and familial abuse. As a single mother with a 3 year old son, Brownie's financial situation was quite bleak. After a brief foray in secretarial work, Brownie landed a job as a saleswoman for Stanley Home Products, and began experimenting with demonstrations in home party settings. [3]

 
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/tupperware/peopleevents/p_wise.html

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2004/02/08/kitchen_confidential/

 

Brownie Wise first saw Tupperware in a department store in 1949. Brownie and her Stanley co-workers began selling Tupperware at home parties. After generating much success with Tupperware home parties, Brownie Wise finally contacted Earl Tupper himself, and advised him that “he would improve business if he sold exclusively at home parties” since the functions of Tupperware were better understood through demonstrations and explanations. [4] Though Earl Tupper was reluctant to take advice from anyone, much less a woman, he quickly hired Brownie Wise as the vice president of his company. Because of Brownie’s ingenuity and strong personality, she achieved success in the business world, a domain dominated by men.

During Brownie Wise’s reign in the Tupperware Corporation, her clever marketing techniques contributed greatly to the incredible success of the product. Brownie encouraged women to challenge their stereotypical role as housewives by becoming Tupperware party hosts. She even created Jubilee as an event where her saleswomen gathered to improve their selling techniques. At the same time though, Brownie ensured that she remained the top-ranking female in the Tupperware Corporation; her fellow executives were all male and women were not allowed to advance past the position of party hosts.

Brownie Wise’s relationship with Earl Tupper, the company president, gradually worsened, especially in light of her achievements in the Tupperware Corporation. Disagreements in policy and the development of new items caused major rifts between Wise and Tupper. Tupper became particularly frustrated by Wise’s somewhat haphazard spending of company funds. Though Brownie Wise was arguably the key to Tupperware’s initial popularity, “Tupper had grown tired of her gimmicks and expenditures,” and as a result Wise elected to retire from the company. [5] Tupper, however, became frustrated with Wise’s advertisement of her retirement from the company, and as a result he informed her potential hirers that she had been fired. Brownie Wise defied gender norms by achieving an executive position in a major corporation: she was the first woman pictured on the cover of BusinessWeek because of her marketing talents. In the end, her success was also limited by her gender. Earl Tupper became increasingly frustrated that a woman governed over many aspects of his company, and was nearly equal in executive power to him. For this, among many other reasons, Earl Tupper forced Brownie Wise to resign from the Tupperware Corporation.

Sadly, after Brownie Wise’s successful stint in Tupperware, she failed in her subsequent business ventures. Brownie developed a cosmetic company, the “Cinderella International Corporation.” She planned to sell her cosmetics at home parties, a technique adapted by Mary Kay Cosmetics, but was unsuccessful in her undertaking. Brownie also meddled fairly unsuccessfully in business consultation and real estate; her departure from the Tupperware Corporation caused her demise. Despite Brownie Wise’s impressive success in a male-dominated business world, her gender ultimately limited her opportunities.

  http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2004/02/08/kitchen_confidential/

To: Earl Tupper Page

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2004/02/08/kitchen_confidential/

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[1] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/tupperware/filmmore/ps_wishes.html
[2] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/tupperware/peopleevents/p_wise.html
[3] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/tupperware/filmmore/pt.html
[4] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/tupperware/filmmore/pt.html
[5] Clarke, Alison. Tupperware. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999, p. 183.