Photo credit: Wikipedia, PBS.org, Harvard Gazette
Brownie Wise was born Brownie Mae Humphrey in 1913, in Buford, Georgia. She dropped out of school in the 8th grade, and is said to have worked with her mother, an organizer for a hat maker’s union.
Brownie harbored dreams of becoming a writer and illustrator, and after she married Robert Wise in 1936, she began to submit contributions to the Detroit News’ Experience column. Brownie’s pen name was Hibiscus, and she wrote about a fantastical life in a mansion filled with servants and a devoted husband. Life at home was far from ideal, however. Her husband was an alcoholic, and they eventually divorced in 1942.
Left with a three-year-old son, Jerry, who had expensive medical bills she had to make ends meet. She worked as a salesperson and a secretary, then started showing cleaning aids and brushes in home party demonstrations for Stanley Home Products. Home party demonstrations were meet-ups in which women would show how products worked and sell them to their friends and neighbors.