AVON: AN INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON ITS ARCHIVE
In the 20 years since Avon Products, Inc., deposited its records at Hagley Library they have become one of our most popular research collections. A virtual event on May 7 will bring attention to their contribution to history.
Avon Products, Inc., is one of the oldest direct selling companies in America. It traces its origins to 1886, when David H. McConnell bought the Union Publishing Company and started manufacturing perfumes to give away with his books. McConnell discovered that his customers were more interested in the fragrances than the books, so he decided to concentrate on selling perfumes. The business was renamed the California Perfume Company (CPC) in an effort to associate its products with the perceived beauty of the Golden State.
From the beginning, CPC sold directly to the consumer through a national network of sales representatives, primarily women, who were looking for economic opportunity and flexible part-time employment. In 1929, CPC introduced the Avon brand in an effort to modernize its image. The corporation was renamed Avon Products, Inc. in 1950. Avon rapidly expanded into the international market during the 1950s and 1960s, principally Latin America and Europe. By the early 1970s, Avon International operated in sixteen countries.
Speakers at the event will come from around the USA and Europe and discuss Avon’s activities in the United States, Brazil, and Italy, as well as its efforts to reach out to African American women and diversity its American salesforce. The event’s keynote will be offered by Katino Manko, who helped bring the Avon Collection to Hagley. Manko’s book, Ding Dong! Avon Calling!: The Women and Men of Avon Products, Incorporated will be published in June.
The conference will be presented online. Each author has shared a paper relating to their presentation that those registered for the conference may view. Advance registration is required to view the pre-circulated papers and to participate in the conference sessions; there is no fee to register. The presenters retain full copyright of their papers and presentations. These materials may not be cited or quoted, or circulated for course use or any other purpose, without the express written permission of the author. The conference is organized by Hagley’s Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society.
Friday, May 7, 9 am – 12 noon EST via Zoom
PresentersJessica Burch, “Soap and Hope”: Direct Sales and the Culture of Work and Capitalism in Postwar America
Jessica Chelekis, Avon in the Brazilian Amazon: Direct Sales and Consumption among Vulnerable Communities
Lindsey Feitz, Creating a Multicultural Soul: Avon, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Race in the 1970s
Shawn Moura, Exploring Avon's Encounter with Gender, Race, and Class in Brazil, 1958-1975
Emanuela Scarpellini, Transnational Beauty: Avon International and the Case of Italy