The Way it Was: Ida Rosenthal

By March 9, 2008The Way It Was

The%20Way%20It%20Was.jpgIda Kaganovich was 18 years old when she emigrated from Russia to the United states in 1904. She changed her name to Cohen, and later changed it again when she married William Rosenthal.

Ida didn’t like to work for other people, so she bought a Singer sewing machine on the installment plan, and hung out her shingle as a seamstress. She did well, and by 1921 she was running a dress shop in Manhattan, along with a friend named Enid Bisset.

The Jazz Age was in full bloom. Women had won the right to vote and were working outside the home in increasing numbers.

But the so-called “flapper look,” which was the rage at the time, had them all trying to appear flat-chested.

Ida hated that look. “Why fight nature?” she asked. So she and Enid came up with the first brassiere fitted with cups that separated the breasts.

The idea took off immediately. Within a year, the company registered the name Maiden Form and hired a salesman. Soon they quit making dresses and focused solely on brassieres. In 1928, they sold 500,000.

Ida was soon introducing new designs, managing the manufacturing process, negotiating with unions and coming up with racy ads. The company prospered and continued to prosper after her death in 1973.

This is truly one of the most uplifting stories in the history of U.S. manufacturing.

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