This Week in Women’s Business History

May 23 – 29

May 23, 1986
E. Genevieve Gillette dies. A Michigan-based landscape architect and ardent conservationist, Gillette was instrumental in creating more than thirty state parks and two national seashores. She graduated from Michigan Agricultural College (forerunner to Michigan State University) in 1920 with a degree in landscape architecture. After working for a few years in Chicago, she established a private practice in Ann Arbor.

May 24, 1917
Florence Knoll Bassett is born. Trained as an architect, she joined the Hans G. Knoll Furniture Co. in 1943, built the company’s design service, and became head of the company in 1955.

May 25, 1945
Mabel Z. Mollison dies. Mollison was one of the first Black women to serve as a bank executive. Between 1902 and 1908, she was head cashier of the Lincoln Savings Bank of Vicksburg (MS). She later moved to Chicago and worked as a stenographer and a caterer.

May 26, 2002
Frances Ireland Marshall dies. Ireland Marshall was a magician, small business owner, and writer. Her first husband, magician Laurie Ireland, founded a small magicians’ supply shop, L.L. Ireland Magic Co., in Chicago in 1926. Frances joined the business as a secretary in 1931 and married Ireland in 1940. In addition to the business, she developed her own magic act, specializing in children’s programs, and wrote articles and books on magic. When her husband died in 1954, Frances continued operating Ireland Magic Co. Her second husband, magician Jay Marshall, joined the business which was later renamed Magic Inc. Customers have included Penn and Teller, David Copperfield, and Harry Blackstone, Sr. and Jr.

May 27, 1818
Amelia Jenks Bloomer is born. She became the publisher of the first newspaper for members of the Ladies’ Temperance Society, the Lily.

May 28, 1934
Ezella Mathis Carter dies. In the early 1900s, many women found business opportunities in the beauty business. Carter was one of them, developing her own techniques and products and calling them the Carter System. She trained her agents in beauty care, business as well as community relations and philanthropy and organized them into the National Hair Dresser’s Association of the Carter System. She also started the Co-operative Industrial and Benevolent Association, and organization of black community clubs.

May 29, 1924
Juanita M. Moody is born. She was an intelligence analyst and manager with the National Security Agency.

Last week in women’s business history

May 16, 1925
Nancy G. Roman is born. Roman was NASA’s first female executive and its first chief of astronomy.

May 17, 1918
Guadalupe Reyes is born. She established a school for children with developmental disabilities.

May 18, 1955
Josephine Bay Paul became a director of American Export Lines.

May 19, 1978
Catherine B. Cleary retires as president and CEO of First Wisconsin Trust Company. She continues her work as a corporate director.

May 20, 1961
Nannie Helen Burroughs dies. Burroughs founded the National Trade and Professional School for Women and Girls in 1907 to provide young Black women with the skills to be self-sufficient wage earners. She was also deeply involved with the Women’s Convention of the National Baptist Convention.

May 21, 1955
Lena Madesin Phillips dies. Phillips was an attorney in private practice who founded both the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (BPW) and the European counterpart, the International Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs.

May 22, 1900
Marie Poland Fish is born. An oceanographer working under contract with the US Navy, she studied underwater sounds.

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