Meet Brownie Wise, Who Invented The Tupperware Party (And Transformed A $100M Brand)
5:45 pm, March 23rd | by Sarah Devlin
Happy Friday, everyone! The week is nearly over, but Women’s History Month still has a few days left! Here, presented for your enjoyment, are 10 fun facts about Brownie Wise, the woman who transformed Tupperware into a kitchen accessories juggernaut.
1. Brownie Wise was born Brownie Mae Humphrey (so named for the color of her eyes) on May 25th, 1913.
2. Brownie’s mother, who would eventually divorce her father, sent Brownie to live with her dressmaker aunt Pearl and cousins while she traveled working for her hat-maker’s union. Early feminist/labor organizer! Love it.
3. Wise was one of the pioneers of “making up a false identity and writing about it” waaay before everyone started “artfully” presenting their own lives to the world via Tumblr and Instagram. She was a frequent contributor to the Detroit News’s “Experience” column, where she wrote about growing up in a mansion in Mississippi with a bunch of servants using the pseudonym “hibiscus.” She also described her husband Robert Wise (code name: “Yankee” as a devoted partner), when in reality he was a violent alcoholic. Sad face.
4. Brownie and Robert Wise were eventually divorced (…thankfully), and she had one child who she named Jerry Wise.
5. When Earl Tupper hired Wise for his sales force, she created the concept of Tupperware parties and wrote a script for salespeople hosting them, one that remained essentially unchanged for nearly three decades.
6. During her first year selling Tupperware in Florida, Wise drafted twelve other salespeople and sold $200,000 worth of merchandise through Tupperware parties. In 1951 Tupper removed his products from store shelves in order to move all merchandise through direct sales. Five years later, his company was worth $100 million.
7. Wise also hosted elaborate annual parties for her “Tupperware Ladies,” where they played complicated games for big rewards: in 1954 the theme was a “Big Dig” in the style of the California Gold Rush, with $50,000 in “mink stoles, diamond rings, gold watches and little cars” that could be exchanged for the real, once their miniatures were dug up. Mink stoles, you guys. Talk to your boss about your next bonus.
8. Wise was the first ever woman to be featured on the cover of Business Week, well before other notables like Mary Kay, Oprah and Martha Stewart — her cover was published in 1954.
9. Earl Tupper, feeling resentful of the credit Wise received for his business’s success, as well as Wise’s lavish parties, fired her four years after that Business Week cover. Sorry for partying! He also “divorced his wife, bought an island in Central America and moved to Costa Rica to avoid U.S. taxes.” Smooth move, bro. Very grown up.
10. Tupperware — and Tupperware parties are still so popular that, as of 2011, a Tupperware party is being held somewhere on this planet every 1.7 seconds. Toast to that at happy hour tonight!