Brownie Wise is one of the most famous women in business you’ve likely never heard of. As a single mom and saleswoman in the 1950’s, Wise helped create the popular Tupperware Home Party empire, only to be unceremoniously unthroned by the creator, Earl Tupper. In the book Life of the Party, the rereleased and updated version of Tupperware Unsealed, readers get a look at the life of the woman who made Tupperware a household name.
I asked my mother if she’d heard the name Brownie Wise. While the name didn’t ring a bell, Tupperware Home Parties sure did. “I must have been to hundreds of those,” she told me, shaking her head. In the 1950’s, many women had just returned to working in the home after spending time working in factories and as crucial support staff during World War II. For women who had grown used to making their own money and having more autonomy, the return to being expected to only cook and clean was taking its toll. For some, like Brownie Wise, working was imperative. Shortly after her son was born, Wise divorced her abusive and often intoxicated husband. She worked as a secretary, but lost her job quickly after the war ended. She found her niche, so to speak, when selling Stanley Home Goods at home. She learned how to sell, and was very good at teaching others her techniques. When she met Mr. Stanley himself, he told her women didn’t belong in management and she should realize her dreams to run a sales team were unfounded. Furious, she left the Stanley company and discovered Tupperware. Though Earl Tupper’s invention was amazing, it grew dusty and unsold in stores. Tupper created durable food storage materials that could be thrown across floors and dropped, unlike the weaker plastic ware of the day. His invention would revolutionize leftovers, but how could he get it into the homes of Americans?
Bob Kealing’s Life of the Party is a great book, filled with personal details of the life of very public Brownie Wise and extremely private Earl Tupper. Their motives and hopes are laid out on every page, complete with first hand sources from letters and articles written by Wise herself. Kealing made sure to interview Brownie’s family and honors Brownie’s personal words in her writings. When the times in Brownie’s life are going well, the book is a joy and so much fun to read. It was wonderful reading about a woman who took life on her own terms and built something incredible. However, when the book reaches her decline and removal from Tupperware, I found myself cringing and not wanting to continue. Like so many female captains of industry competing in a world dominated by men, her removal from Tupperware feels too familiar a story.
Life of the Party is a fantastic book for the business woman in your life, or someone who wants to take a deeper look at the contributions of a woman nearly forgotten in business history. I loved learning about Brownie Wise and hope more people come to know her name.
Life of the Party by Bob Kealing is available now from Crown Publishing.
Notice: I received this book for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for a fair review.