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Entrepreneurs

Etta Wedell Mastbaum

Etta Wedell Mastbaum was the scion of a prominent nineteenth- and twentieth-century Philadelphia family. A philanthropist, department store executive, art collector, and director of a national chain of motion picture theaters, Mastbaum donated a collection of Rodin sculptures and ephemera to the city of Philadelphia.

Lane Bryant Malsin

Lane Bryant Malsin was a fashion entrepreneur and pioneer in the best sense of the word, long before Donna Karan or Liz Claiborne. She pioneered niche marketing and mail-order merchandising, as well as innovative work practices and progressive advertising.

Mary Ann Cohen Magnin

Energetic, stubborn, with an outstanding intuition for business—this was Mary Ann Cohen Magnin, the founder of I. Magnin and Company. Until her death at age ninety-four, Magnin took an active interest in the stores, which specialize in exclusive women’s clothes. Mary Ann Cohen, the daughter of a rabbi, was born in Scheveningen, Holland, in 1850. She immigrated with her parents to London, England. On October 8, 1865, in the Great Synagogue in London, she married Isaac Magnin, born in Assen, Holland, in 1842, a carver and gilder. They had eight children: Samuel, Henrietta, Joseph, Emanuel John, Victor, Lucille, Flora, and Grover.

Judith Leiber

“Hitler put me in the handbag business,” Judith Leiber recalled in Enid Nemy’s book, Judith Leiber: The Artful Handbag. She was born Judith Peto in Budapest, Hungary, on January 11, 1921. Her well-to-do parents, Emil and Helen Peto, originally planned that she make a fortune in skin creams. Instead, she enrolled in the Hungarian Handbag Guild as its first woman member. Judith, her older sister Eva, and her mother survived the Nazi occupation of Budapest by staying in a building designated for Jews and then in a house set aside for Swiss citizens. Her father, an Austro-Hungarian who managed the grain department of a bank, obtained a pass for himself and forged the words “and family,” using the same typewriter used to issue the pass.

Estée Lauder

Estée Lauder’s name connotes beauty and healthy skin through her profitable cosmetics lines: Estée Lauder, Clinique, Aramis, Lauder for Men and Prescriptives. An astute businesswoman, she made a fortune manufacturing, marketing and distributing cosmetics to women around the world.

Blanche Wolf Knopf

Blanche W. Knopf was one of that small group of women who were major book publishers. Married to Alfred A. Knopf in 1916, she became a vice president of the firm in 1921 and president in 1957. During her tenure, the firm was noted for publishing such authors as André Gide, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Elizabeth Bowen, Ilya Ehrenburg, Mikhail Sholokov, Thomas Mann, and Sigmund Freud. Her intellectual interests, flawless French, and sensitivity to emerging literary trends were matched by her personal style and social prowess.

Lillian Ruth Kessler

In 1982, when she retired from the presidency of Kessler International Corporation, Lillian Kessler prepared a brochure listing the principal export items of the company she had founded in 1946. The list included abrasives, adhesives, locomotive parts, chemicals, navigational and meteorological instruments, tank and jeep bearings, crankshaft and camshaft grinders, and many other automotive parts.

Lillian Kasindorf Kavey

Lillian Kasindorf Kavey was a banker, a community activist, and an advocate for Conservative Judaism and Ethiopian Jewry. She was born in New York City on July 19, 1889, and married Abraham H. Kavovitz, an itinerant clothing merchant and shoe salesman, in 1908. They settled in Port Chester, New York.

Chaile Raphael Kaulla

“Here rests a woman who was outstanding among her people and in her fatherland” is written on the gravestone of “Madame Kaulla” in the Hechingen Jewish cemetery. This refers to her charity as a wealthy and pious Jewish woman and to her significant achievements in serving the Grand Duke (later King) of Wuerttemberg and the imperial army (Reichsarmee). Chaile Raphael Kaulla was the most influential Jewish woman entrepreneur and one of the last Court Jews in eighteenth-century Germany.

Donna Karan

Not just an ordinary fashion designer, Donna Karan has proved she is an extraordinary New York designer. She has stretched her role as “artist” in the high-paced designer world to include aspects of life far beyond the typical wardrobe.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Entrepreneurs." (Viewed on September 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/entrepreneurs>.

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