Avon Founder David H. McConnell offered women a rarity in 19th century America: a chance at financial independence. In 1886, it was practically unheard of for a woman to run her own business. Only about 5 million women in the United States were working outside the home, let alone climbing the ranks of any corporate ladder. That number accounted for just 20% of all women.
On the heels of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, women were mainly confined to jobs in agriculture, domestic service and manufacturing, not exactly glamorous lines of work; the manufacturing sector, in particular, was notorious for its dangerous working conditions. On top of that, women’s wages across the board were a fraction of men’s.
For many women, McConnell would radically alter that scenario. The man behind the company for women was the son of Irish immigrants and grew up on a farm. Yet, it was this young man from rural New York, a visionary leader decades ahead of his time, who would become a pioneer in empowering women. McConnell, a bookseller-turned-perfume entrepreneur, would offer women the opportunity to create and manage their own businesses through what later became known as direct selling.
Origins of an Idea
In his travels as a book salesman, McConnell made two important discoveries. First, he quickly noticed that his female customers were far more interested in the free perfume samples he offered than they were in his books. He made these fragrances himself to serve as “door openers” when he traveled from home to home. Second, McConnell saw women struggling to make ends meet and recognized in many of them natural salespeople who would easily relate to other women and passionately market the products his new company would first sell — perfumes.
To read the full history of Avon please visit the Avon website here