The Avon lady going door to door is a part of the popular American memory. From its founding in the nineteenth century Avon recruited women to make up its direct sales force, and later its emerging middle management class, encouraging them to take ownership of their own small business and to earn an income on their own. Many women were enthusiastic to heed this call and sell beauty and household products to their friends and neighbors. In her recently published book, Ding Dong! Avon Calling! The Women and Men of Avon Products Incorporated, Katina Manko, interviewed by the Center’s Oral Historian Benjamin Spohn, traces the origins and growth of Avon from its founding as the California Perfume Company to the restructuring of the 2010s. Using company records and the personal correspondence of sales representatives, Manko writes a history of the company’s growth from a small seller of perfumes in the United States to an international beauty behemoth. She also explores the reasons behind how, in spite of Avon's emphasis on hiring women and allowing them to run their own business, women did not join the highest levels of Avon’s management until the latter part of the 1990s
Dr. Katina Manko is an independent historian and a graduate of the University of Delaware’s Hagley program. She currently teaches history for the Yeshiva University High School for girls. She previously taught at Bard College, Ramapo College, and Merrimack College More information on her book can be found here.
The audio-only version of this program is available on our podcast.
Interview available at https://www.hagley.org/research/history-hangout-katina-manko. Info on Katina Manko’s upcoming author talk (which will be in person and livestreamed on YouTube) at Hagley on Thursday, October 7, 2021, is available here: https://www.hagley.org/research/author-talk-katina-manko.
Recorded on Zoom and available anywhere once they are released, our History Hangouts include interviews with authors of books and other researchers who have use of our collections, and members of Hagley staff with their special knowledge of what we have in our stacks. We began the History Hangouts earlier this summer and now are releasing programs every two weeks on alternate Mondays. Our series is part of the Hagley from Home initiative by the Hagley Museum and Library. The schedule for upcoming episodes, as well as those already released, is available at https://www.hagley.org/hagley-history-hangout.
Carol Ressler Lockman