Tupperware Bowls Empowered Women

Entrepreneurial potential in an era of limited opportunity

A prolific inventor, Earl Tupper designed and manufactured the hardy plastic Wonder Bowl, but women turned it into an empire. In 1951, Tupper enlisted Brownie Wise, a charismatic, divorced single mother, to lead a new Tupperware Home Parties sales organization. In an era that discouraged women’s work outside the home, Tupperware parties offered women in new suburban communities, immigrant city neighborhoods, and rural regions unique opportunities to host neighbors, make friends, and earn money without upsetting the status quo.

Tupperware Bowl

Object Details

Few products are more symbolic of household life in post-World War II America than Tupperware. Made of plastic, intended for service in the suburban kitchen, and with clean and modern design, Tupperware represented "tomorrow's designs with tomorrow's substances." The Museum's collections include over 100 pieces of Tupperware, dating from 1946 through 1999.
Beginning in the 1930s, chemist Earl S. Tupper (1907–1983) experimented with polyethylene slag, a smelly, black waste product of oil refining processes, to develop uses for it. He devised translucent and opaque colored containers that he first marketed in 1942 as "Welcome Ware," then added lids with a patented seal later in the decade.
Modeled after the lid of a paint can, the lid to a Tupperware container was to be closed with a "burp," to create a partial vacuum and make the seal tight. The product was designed to appeal to the growing number of housewives who worked in suburban kitchens with modern appliances, including large refrigerators that allowed once-a-week trips for grocery shopping at the supermarket. These women formed a market for new and effective methods of food storage. Tupperware's water-tight, airtight seal promised preservation of freshness and limited spills or spoilage.
Yet the capabilities of the new product were not obvious to consumers at first, and Tupper's containers did not sell well in retail stores. A Michigan woman named Brownie Wise thought of marketing Tupperware through the home-sales method. Wise developed the system of Tupperware parties, at which a demonstrator could show the uses and advantages of Tupperware. As Tupperware became a staple of many American kitchens, some women found job opportunities in Tupperware sales.
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Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
American Enterprise
Domestic Furnishings
American Enterprise
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Credit Line
Gift of Glenn O. Tupper
Data Source
National Museum of American History
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Object Name
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
overall: 2 1/8 in x 2 3/4 in; 5.3975 cm x 6.985 cm
Record ID