Celebrating Martha Matilda Harper

Local News

Author Jane Plitt is making sure Rochester remembers its pioneering female entrepreneur Martha Matilda Harper.

Plitt is a longtime resident of Rochester who makes her home in Florida these days. She’s back in town for a book launch of her updated paperback version of “Martha Matilda Harper and the American Dream,” released on June 1.

Plitt will be at the Rochester Museum and Science Center on Wednesday, June 19 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. as part of Harper’s collection is on display. She will also give a presentation on Thursday, June 20 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. at St. John Fisher College.

Plitt shared her thoughts about Harper and her importance Tuesday during News 8 at Noon.

“She was the first woman member of the Chamber of Commerce, and they forgot about her,” Plitt said. “She created modern franchising, and she also invented the reclining shampoo chair we all get to delight in. She was a poor servant from the time she was seven. Finally, 25 years later, she comes to Rochester and is able to create the first beauty salon for women, here. And from there, it was like a Wegmans!”

Harper would franchise over 500 salons across the globe. Susan B. Anthony and President’s Wilson and Coolidge were among her clients.

The Rochester connection is strong for Harper, who is a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame. “There are twelve locations throughout Rochester that had her shops,” noted Plitt. “And the Rochester Museum and Science Center has all of her artifacts and memorabilia.”

Plitt said, “We need to embrace her. Not only because she was fabulous, but because she paved the way for women to demonstrate that they too could be leaders and innovators. She also was an immigrant. And so she illustrates that immigrants can bring new ideas. And Rochester totally deserves credit for embracing her as they did many other people with very strange ideas. George Eastman, 1888, launches the Kodak Camera. She in 1888 launches the concept of beauty salons for women. And we need to learn her lessons; that you persevere. Things could be tough, but that you need to hang in there. She hung in for 25 years. And then you need to bring others along. What wonderful lessons for us today.”

To get your copy of “Martha Matilda Harper and the American Dream” go online at Amazon.com, or wherever you buy books.

To learn more about Plitt and Harper, visit MarthaMatildaHarper.org.

To see our entire conversation with Jane Plitt, click the link below.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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