Do a Google search for Lucinda W. Prince, and you won’t find anything.
However, in my sales history research, I've found one of the most fascinating sales figures who drove the profession in the early 20th century. And she's not mentioned anywhere in sales history literature - until now.
I've discovered Mrs. Prince as THE PIONEER for women in sales, advancing the profession past its male-dominated upbringing.
I've discovered that any discussion around the history of women in sales needs to begin with Lucinda W. Prince.
Pic. I've been ear-deep in books and articles this weekend trying to paint the entire picture...
Soon after the turn of the century into 1900, Mrs. Prince was a leader of a club of "women who work", who complained of low wages even though they had equal jobs and experience. She was convinced that they would never be better off until someone helped them to “see the possibilities of their work”.
So, she devoted her life to it.
By 1905, as a member of the executive committee of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Boston, she spearheaded an effort to determine what special training was needed by "girls who wished to become saleswomen."
In the Fall of that year, she started a class through the union in salesmanship focused largely on retail sales. It began slowly, as she described in a talk given in 1910, "The first year's experience showed that as the school had nothing definite to offer its pupils, it failed to attract the type of girl wanted."
Subjects taught in the initial years of the program included:1
(1) "To develop a wholesome, attractive personality: hygiene (especially personal hygiene): this includes study of daily menus for saleswomen, ventilation, bathing, sleep, exercise, recreation."
(2) "To teach selling as a science: talks on salesmanship such as 'Attitude to Firm, Customer and Fellow-Employee', demonstration of selling in the class, salesmanship lectures."
The slow beginning did not last long. Over the coming years, she successfully pushed to work with businesses, where students would work half-time each day, and spend the other half in the 3-month-long sales school with some pay. This faith that the increased efficiency would be worth the investment paid off.1
In the cohort beginning in October of 1906, there were sixteen students in the program.2
With space for just 21 students, by the February 1907 cohort, there were over 100 applicants.
And due to the success of the program, beginning with the Fall 1907 cohort, accepted students were receiving FULL pay for their time in school.
“The training of women in salesmanship by Mrs. Lucinda W. Prince in the Woman’s Educational and Industrial Union, in Boston, shows the value of so educating woman that her brain and physical force may work together, giving her a sense of responsibility in regarding her work as a vocation, with intelligent interest in system, attention to details, increased knowledge of the goods to be sold, color, design, textiles and so forth. Pupils sent from five well-known Boston department stores receive full wages while taking the three months’ course, which occupies each morning.
The value of this as a business proposition, as well as an illustration of the increase in efficiency with the lessening of strain, is shown by the fact that their afternoon sales give them a weekly total as high as the employees who do not attend the school and who work all day.”3
In a study I found in Efficiency Magazine's August 1914 edition regarding the outcomes of Mrs. Prince's program, "Of 195 graduates from the school interviewed in 1912, 145 had received a raise within a year."4
By 1909, Mrs. Prince had become a bit of a phenomenon, traveling the country speaking, motivating the development of more courses and more discussions around women in sales, including the pictured book above, Saleswomen in Mercantile Stores.
Under her leadership, by 1912, Salesmanship was taught in nine Boston high schools for both boys and girls. In June of 1916, Isabel Craig Bacon, the Director of Salesmanship for the Boston Public Schools, proclaimed that there were currently 400 women going through the high school program.
In a speech given on May 16th, 1916 in Cincinnati, Mrs. Prince spoke of the prejudices she had to overcome, and how:
"mothers and daughters came to realize that the position of a saleswoman was one of dignity, responsibility and initiative; that it offered much more chance for personal development and a future than commercial courses, that above everything else, its cultural value was apparent."4
Today, in 2021, there are many we consider to be "thought leaders" and "influencers" for the sales profession. I'm finding in the pages of early 20th century books, newspapers and magazines incredible foundation layers for our profession all the way back to the year 1900, whom have been all but forgotten.
Part of my interest and goal in my sales history nerdery is to bring light to the incredible minds that laid the foundation for our profession.
Mrs. Prince is a perfect example. She's not mentioned in any books or articles on the history of sales. The most comprehensive book on sales history available, Birth of a Salesman (2004), doesn't even mention her. My research on her work has not stopped, as I'm still following the breadcrumbs from both before and after the period from 1905-1918.
Lucinda W. Prince:
- Then President Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Boston
- Educational Director National Dry Goods Association
- Director of Union School of Salesmanship Women's Educational and Industrial Union.
- THE PIONEER for women in the sales profession
If you find this as nerdy interesting as I do, two things you can do:
1) Higher effort: Share this post out. I seriously want Lucinda to be a household name in the sales world. 😃
1 From an address given in Boston on November 17th, 1910, before the Fourth Annual Meeting of the National Socienty for the Promotion of Industrial Education
2 (1919). Salesmanship*. Journal of Education, 89(7), 187-188.
3 Fifteen Annual Congress on Hygiene and Demography, Washington D.C., September 23-28, 1912
4 Efficiency Magazine, August 1914
5 The Cincinnatian, May 22nd, 1916, 6