Tupperware parties were a cultural phenomenon of the mid Twentieth century. In a wave of polyethylene adulation, housewives bought the plastic storage products at in home parties worldwide. Even the late Queen Elizabeth was a huge fan and used Tupperware products daily. She stored breakfast cereals in them while at Balmoral and surely used them for corgi treats.
Tupperware is just plastic, isn’t it? Maybe, but there is more to it than that. Tupperware has an interesting back story. So, hang in if interested. Tupperware has seen its glory days and is suffering in the modern day due to competition, issues with direct sales and company financial missteps. But what glory days the plastic giant had!
Tupperware Glory Days
The Tupperware brand is named after Earl Tupper who created the range of plastic ware in 1946. He designed the plastic storage items to help with food waste. Everyone was alert to waste as the world war two had just finished and before that there had been The Great Depression. Food shortages and resourceful use of food were on every woman’s radar.
Earl liked the idea of containers sealing well like paint cans do. He created the Wonder Bowl which sold for 39 cents. The lid was a bit tricky to fit due its air tightness, so customers kept returning them thinking the lid didn’t fit. So, initially Tupperware did not walk out the doors of stores. It took a woman to elevate the product to its heyday of fame.
Brownie Wise, the Tupperware Woman
This woman was Brownie Wise. She encountered Tupperware when a door-to-door salesman came flogging it. She loved the products but thought his sales approach was poor and knew she could do better. Brownie bought stock and started having patio parties for lady friends with Tupperware as the focus. By 1950, Brownie was outselling the department stores. Way to go, Brownie! What a woman.
You see Brownie needed money to support her family as she was a single mother. Also, Brownie had experience. She had worked at Stanley Home Products in Michigan and probably was showing up the males as she was told that management was no place for a woman. It was a Man’s World. Men tried to restrict women to the domestic sphere of life despite their heroism and efforts during the war.
Women of America loved Tupperware
But Brownie found her place, thanks to Earl Tupper. He employed the divorced mother as his Vice President of Marketing. Tupperware and Earl never looked back. Brownie took the plastics into every home in America via the party plan approach. She signed up 200,000 distributors most of whom were women.
Housewives could become consultants and grow their own business and keep one third of the profit. It was an exciting opportunity for stay-at-home mums and probably one sanctioned by the husbands. A little bit of extra cash from a morning tea party, what is the harm in that? It surely livened up life in the 1950s.
Brownie Wise was the first woman to have her face on the cover of Business Week magazine. She reasoned that the social atmosphere of a party relaxed the women and lowered their sales resistance. This was proven over and over. Fifteen women buy more each than they would individually. They encourage each other unintentionally to ‘want’ stuff, especially innovative plastic containers that can streamline storage in the home.
All the fun of a Tupperware Party
Brownie was glamorous and soon Tupperware was glamorous by association. And everyone benefited at a Tupperware party. The hostess gained points or free products, the guests had access to Tupperware which was no longer sold in stores and if a guest booked a party herself, she became a hostess and scored free products.
Plus the parties were fun. A night away from husbands and children, lots of new friends and some old ones. The party started with games like pass the parcel. Always there was a winner and the prize would be guess what, a small tupperware item!
Soon the range became extensive. There were plastic toys, cookware, utensils, everything made of plastic. As plastic technology improved the items became more flexible, heat and freeze resistant and more colourful. Tupperware went worldwide.
Tupperware Lasts Forever?
I must confess to going to quite a few parties in the 1990s when I had small children and yes, I succumbed and ended up with a Tupperware filled kitchen. Most of these items are still in my cupboard.
Tupperware is very durable and seems to last forever. But sadly, unlike its products, the iconic plastic brand is struggling to stay afloat financially. Despite its worldwide market reach, Tupperware is on the wane. Younger customers are not a fan of the pastel coloured iconic items that their mothers and grandmothers so loved. They use take out containers to store leftovers or buy Rubbermaid or Zip lock products. But you can still buy Tupperware online. Click and take a peek.
Many women now work and have no time for parties or no need for working pantries. Convenience foods are on the rise and plastic awareness has decreased sales due to environmental awareness. So, if you still have some Tupperware, you have a piece of history in your cupboard.
Photo Source is the cover of one of the biographies about Brownie Wise, the Tupperware Queen.
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.