Women in History: Lena Bryant

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So, I have to say that there is not a lot of information about this woman out there. She is an entrepreneur, which I think successful women entrepreneurs do a lot for women too, even if their effect maybe isn’t as pronounced as someone who fought for suffrage. But they opened the doors for women to successfully run businesses today. And, in Lena Bryant’s case, she changed clothing manufacturing for the better.

She

  • started Lane Bryant.
  • was an immigrant.
  • was supposed to marry the man who paid for her to come to America, then refused and took a sewing job in a factory.
  • eventually married and had one son.
  • was widowed shortly after her son was born.
  • needed to find a way to support her young son.
  • took up selling her sewing out of her apartment.
  • eventually rented a store front on 5th Avenue that she lived in the back of.
  • made the first commercial maternity dress and it was a huge hit between women of all classes.
  • married again sometime after opening her storefront and went on to have three more kids with him.
  • had to overcome the fact that pregnancy was not mentioned in press, which made advertising this dress hard, but at one point she got it into a paper and the dress completely sold out one day after that.
  • created the first mail-order catalog to also help overcome this problem. They had one for maternity wear and one for plus-size wear.
  • also designed plus size clothing – another big seller and another first too. She was the first mass manufacturer of plus sized clothing.
  • measured 4,500 women and surveyed 200,000 women before designing her plus-size clothing to figure out what real women, not models, needed.
  • made 5 million dollars by 1923.
  • really cared about people. When any of her customers had been in any kind of natural disaster, she would work with the Red Cross to assist them by replacing their wardrobe.
  • also want to make sure she took care of her employees, something unusual for the time. She provided for her employees above and beyond what was the norm. She offered medical benefits, life insurance, profit-sharing, pensions, and disability insurance to her employees.

Additional fun fact: The name Lane Bryant comes from the bank misspelling her name.

So I hoped you learn a little more about someone who I feel like has a well-known company, even if she herself is not that well-known. I honestly didn’t find much information on her. However, her company continues to be successful, even to today. And I think she’s important because look at everything she was able to do. She saw women’s needs and she met them. And sure, maybe it seems like a trivial need, but people need clothes to wear. And not only that, but she helped people. She put people before profits. And she wanted to care for her employees too.

Sources:

  • Wikipedia 
  • Lane Bryant, Inc. – Introduction: International Directory of Company Histories (Link broken as of 6/28/14)
  • Lena Bryant: Smiling down on her curvy empire (Link broken as of 1/18/2016)

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P. P. S. If you want to read more about other awesome women in history, check out all the women I’ve profiled.

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