I am thankful I am a woman in the United States in 2013. I am thankful for toilets, clean water, antibiotics and the right to vote. But today, I am thankful that brilliant women can have an idea, make a plan, get support from their communities and start their own businesses. Last Monday night, we went to the launch party for Tomboy Exchange, a new clothing company started by our friends and neighbors Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzales. They have assembled a team of talented women – a clothing designer, a pattern maker, business and investment consultants and others, who are bringing their expertise to start a unique women’s clothing company. How far we have come as women entrepreneurs!
Which got me thinking about one of the business women among my own ancestors, my Great Grandmother Minnie Dey Dibben. Minnie was born in New York City in 1886 and raised in Chicago. In the early 1900’s Chicago was a booming city, home to the new concept of “department stores” and a breeding spot for entrepreneurial men with dreams. It was here in 1905 that Minnie met my Great Grandfather Walter Dibben (their families were next door neighbors). They ran off to Indiana to get married secretly when they are were 19. Walter worked for Carson Pirie Scott as a salesman, but later was able to open his own store where Minnie was the bookkeeper and “assistant”.
I have looked at all the census records and all of them say Minnie employment was “keeping house”, but my Grandmother Olive remembers having a Swedish babysitter so her mother could go to work with her father. Grandma also has all the account books from their businesses and they are in Minnie’s handwriting! Minnie, Walter and Olive later moved to Los Angeles in 1923 where they built 2 department stores and it was Minnie who was keeping the books – in the background. I wonder what Minnie would have done in 2013? Would she have become a CPA? Or maybe she would have been President of those department stores instead of Walter?
So, I am especially excited for Fran and Naomi’s endeavor. They don’t have the same obstacles as women did in the early 1900‘s, but they still need investors to get them started. Check out their clothing campaign on Kickstarter, invest, get a great shirt (hat, jacket etc.) and pass it along to friends. Remember your own women ancestors who could have used a “kickstart.” Do your part for a great idea, the economy and small women owned businesses.