Alison J. Clarke is professor and chair of Design History and Theory at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and research director of the Victor J. Papanek Foundation, which promotes socially-aware design. She was formerly a Smithsonian Fellow of History.
TupperwareÄthe product line of brightly colored, polyethylene containers for leftover foodsÄhas toppled from its iconic role as the hallmark of the modern kitchen to fodder for jokes on Seinfeld. Yet since the late 1940s, when it was invented by Earl Tupper (who envisioned the product as both an emblem and agent of postwar household cleanliness and thrift), Tupperware has changed the lives of millions of women who not only used it but found personal and economic freedom as Tupperware salespeople. Clarke's lucid and fascinating social history explicates a host of complex ideas: the ethical and moral meanings of "modern" design in postwar America; the economic and social conflicts that women faced in the 1950s; how suburban living affected consumer culture; the history of door-to-door sales; and the corporate and gender politics of marketing. At the heart of her wonderfully detailed narrative is the story of Brownie Wise, a divorced single parent from Detroit who originated the "Tupperware party," eventually becoming a vice-president of the corporation. Along the way, Wise made herself and the Tupper Corporation a fortune by selling women the dichotomized ideal of the perfect housewife who runs a perfect business. Clarke writes entertainingly even while delivering enormous amounts of information. Using Tupperware as both a symbol and artifact, she provides a provocative cultural and feminist history of the second half of the 20th century. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
"Alison Clarke tells [Tupperware's story] with wit and erudition."--Newsweek "This detailed and entertaining book explores how the plastic storage containers known as Tupperware rose to prominence in 1950s America. . . . Tupperware was more than just a clever use of plastic and an equally clever marketing tool, it was a symbol of its time and a perfect product for a consumerist age."--American History "[Tupperware] explores that domestic icon of suburbia and its role in feminist history."--Washington Post "Clarke's cultural analysis contributes to our growing appreciation of women's agency in the 1950s USA, as well as in the larger culture of consumption."--Women's Review of Books