Monroe County Troop gets early access to program honoring Martha Matilda Harper

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This morning, Troop 63113 was invited to the Rochester Museum & Science Center for first access to this weekend’s special program about one of Rochester’s greatest advocates for women. Surprisingly, we aren’t talking about Susan B. Anthony.

Martha Matilda Harper embodied what it means to be a G.I.R.L, or Go-Getter, Risk-Taker, Innovator, and Leader. Born in Canada, she was sent at age 7 to be a domestic servant for relatives. After 22 years, she moved to Rochester where she worked as a servant for a minister and a physician, with the latter forever altering the course of her life. Just three years after entering the United States, her empire began to grow.

Through working for the physician and a gift of one of his tonics, she began experimenting with new products that would benefit hair, opposed to those currently on the market she felt were damaging. To sell her own tonic, she used a picture of her floor-length hair to show the true benefit of using her product. One product grew into a salon which eventually blossomed into the first franchise. In fact, the second location she opened after Rochester was in Buffalo.

At its highest, the Harper Method had more than 500 salons and featured clientele like Woodrow Wilson, Jacqueline Kennedy, and even Susan B. Anthony.

Now she’s honored for her contributions to business today and her work as a successful businesswoman and female empowerment advocate in a time when it was most definitely a man’s world.

Locally, Jane R. Pitt has written several books about the life of Martha. On her site, she wondered if Juliette Gordon Low ever visited a Harper Method salon as well as her excitement over her fellow woman’s success. While we don’t know those answers, we can see the impact she has on the current generation.

At the RMSC, Troop 63113 was able to learn more about Martha’s legacy and even read Jane R. Pitt’s works about her. For more coverage, check out the news story here.

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