The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Lillian Vernon

March 18, 1927–December 14, 2015

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Lillian Vernon until we are able to commission a full entry.

Lillian Vernon, Citymeals-on-Wheels board member, donates a refrigerated truck to the charity.

Courtesy of Annie Watt/Wikimedia Commons.

In 1987, Lillian Vernon took her mail-order company public, making it the first company founded by a woman and traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Lillian Menasche fled Germany for Amsterdam in 1933 and immigrated to America in 1937. She married Samuel Hochberg in 1949 and invested money from her wedding gifts in her new venture, a company specializing in monogrammed purses, belts, and other products for women, which she advertised in magazines like Seventeen. Taking her name from her new home in Mt. Vernon, New York, she began creating mail order catalogues in 1953, opened retail stores in 1985, and created an online storefront in 1995 on AOL. Vernon stepped down as CEO in 2006 and two years later the company filed for bankruptcy and was sold, although Vernon remained as non-executive chairman. A devoted philanthropist known for her generosity to over 500 charities, including Meals on Wheels and NYU, Vernon has been honored with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the NAACP Medal of Honor, and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters National Heroes Award, among others. The Women’s Enterprise Center also created the Lillian Vernon Award to honor businesswomen who act as community leaders.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Lillian Vernon." (Viewed on September 24, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/vernon-lillian>.

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