What an impact one poor Canadian girl born on September 12, 1857 had on thousands of other poor servant and factory girls. Today that woman, Martha Matilda Harper, would have been 159 years old and her legacy lives on, but reminds us there is more to do.
Harper created modern retail franchising around the world, putting poor women in charge.
In 1891, with the help of Susan B. Anthony and other suffragists, along with the society ladies across America, especially Bertha Palmer, Harper opened her first franchise in Detroit, then Buffalo and ultimately 500 of them across the world. She put poor women in ownership positions transforming their lives.
Today, franchising in the U.S. accounts for about $890 billion and 780,000 franchises. Women independently own only about 25% of them.
Women in business remain dominated by men, whether in franchising or in the ranks of CEOs.
These statistics reflect the industry growth without the accompanying commitment to use business for social change (Social entrepreneurship), that Harper pioneered. Martha would be promoting using these business for empowering the poor.
Women remain poorer overall, and are more likely to be impoverished than men, whether they are young or old, a veteran or not in the United States.
•Women earn less. Today, full-time women workers still make 80 cents on the dollar earned by men. In every profession, women, on average, earn less than men according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
•Women and their children are more likely to live in poverty. Nearly 40% of families headed by women live in poverty.
•Women vets are increasingly homeless. Recently, that number has nearly doubled.
•Senior women (0ver 65) are more likely to live in poverty than men.
We need to bring back Martha Matilda Harper’s spirit, values, and can do know-how to improve our society. Happy birthday, Martha. Sure glad you were born. Now the gauntlet has been passed to us.