When Earl Tupper designed his first line of polyethylene kitchenware in 1946, he hoped it would revolutionize food storage. He got plenty of media acclaim—TIME magazine raved about the plastic that could “withstand almost anything,” and House Beautiful admired its simplistic, yet chic, design [source: Kealing]. But his product wasn’t catching on with American homemakers. It wasn’t until direct salespeople who peddled Stanley products began showcasing Tupperware in merchandise parties known as hostess group demonstrations in the late 1940s that the company found its legs.
One of the key players in this shift was Brownie Wise, who became famous for her off-beat tactics and charismatic pitch that helped transform Tupperware into a household name. Despite being abandoned by her husband during World War II, Wise was an ingenious marketer who knew how to harness the power of women. She created a network of dealers and hostesses who promoted and sold Tupperware through private home parties. These social gatherings were disguised as commercial opportunities, with dealers providing first-hand demonstrations of the products to eager customers in exchange for income and recognition (husbands often stepped in to deal with distribution and collection).
In the 1950s, as 20 million Americans moved from urban centres to new suburban homes, women’s roles were redefined. They were no longer largely in the workforce, and many of them had children and elderly parents living with them at home. Tupperware provided a chance to earn money and still spend time with their families.
According to design historian Alison Clarke, Tupperware parties glamourised mundane housework and allowed women to build relationships with each other and with a brand they could identify with. “This was a new form of social activism, where women were building networks and supporting each other in their homes,” she tells the BBC. “It was a way for them to be part of something bigger than their own family.”
Tupperware has continued to be an all-women brand in the boardroom and on the ground, but the company has struggled to adapt to changing times. Its decline started slowly over a decade ago, and the firm has been warning of a potential bankruptcy since April.
Tupperware is renowned for its airtight containers, which help cut down on food wastage and keep food fresher for longer. They’re also BPA free and can be safely used in the microwave. Whether you’re looking for a new set of storage containers or a special freezer mate, there is a Tupperware product to suit your needs. Klimaoase