‘Ultimately purged from American corporate history ...’:
A fun story on one of the most remarkable pre-Martha female sales executives in American corporate history, Brownie Wise
, who literally made Tupperware a household name. Her tale will be retold tomorrow night on PBS’s “American Experience.’’
One annoying aspect to this otherwise fine article, to wit: The way she’s cast as a feminist-like Heroine Up Against Male Corporate America. I like to think I know a little about Brownie. In 1999 during my old BBJ days, we produced a special supplement called ‘100 Years, 100 People,’ a review of the most influential business executives in Massachusetts in the 20th Century. Earl Tupper, inventor of burb-and-seal Tupperware, made the cut because he was from Massachusetts and his company was based here. Brownie didn’t make the list, though she was mentioned, because she never lived here and her semi-independent sales operation was based in Florida. But that’s not the point. What we found, in preparing the supplement, was just how many bitter rivalries emerged between great inventors/founders and corporate types, the never-ending backroom feuds that shaped companies’ histories, etc. The history of Corporate America is littered with tales of bloodied winners and victims of these now forgotten corporate battles. Earl Tupper was one of the winners. Brownie was one of the victims. ... Is her tale fascinating? Absolutely. Was there a gender component to her rise and fall? No doubt. But was Tupper’s brutal treatment of a business partner so unique? No way. ... Still, it’s great to see Brownie getting some much deserved credit. ...
-- One of the more fascinating female executives of the 20th Century in Massachusetts, in my humble opinion, was Elizabeth Eaton Bois, who rose from timekeeper to forewoman to founder of Winship, Boit & Co., one of the largest textile companies in the state. Her achievements are more remarkable because they took place in the late 1800s and early 1900s. ... Another fascinating woman business executive was Margaret C. Carlson, the first female member of ‘The Vault’ and who helped found Five Star Reality Co. She won
her backroom wars and became sole owner of the firm, later taken over by DeWolfe Co. Inc., yet another female-founded real estate company based here.