3 Minneapolis Seedswomen – Pioneer Women Entrepreneurs
Three Minneapolis Seedswomen
Carrie H. Lippincott 1898 Catalog Cover
Jessie R. Prior 1901 Catalog Cover
About a year ago, I stepped into the Andersen Horticultural Library to look for some pictures of old seed packets. I walked out with a story that I never anticipated. Three Minneapolis women in the late 1800’s were fondly named the 3 Seedswomen. These three women started their own seed catalogs and were competitors at a time when women were still wearing corsets. Quite the entrepreneurs, especially since women didn’t have a voice yet. Miss Carrie H. Lippincott (1886), Mrs. Jessie R. Pryor (1895), and Miss Emma V. White (1896-1928). Miss Carrie Lippincott was an outspoken young single woman, who at 33 opened her seed catalog business in 1895 and ran it until the late 1930’s with her sister. She marketed to women specifically, using charming drawings of women, children, & plants on her seed packages. Apparently, prior to that time, the seed packets were very generic & uninteresting. Carrie’s strategy worked (“a quarter of a million of this catalogue will be printed to supply my patrons for 1899”) and brought some competition that used similar marketing techniques. There was some controversy about Mrs. Jessie Pryor, who company formed in 1895. Miss Carrie Lippincott posted a photo of herself in her catalogs and pronounced that perhaps not all of her women competitors were women. There was some speculation that Jessie R. Pryor’s catalog was run by her husband. I found several sources that stated that this was a point of contention with Miss Lippincott. Whatever the case, all 3 of these companies were geared toward women and based in Minneapolis. Two were definitely owned and run by women, which is remarkable, given the era that these women lived in. I am still amazed by what they accomplished. These 3 Seedswomen ROCKED!
Emma V. White Catalog Cover 1906
Photos courtesy of Andersen Horticultural Library at the MN Landscape Arboretum & University of Minnesota U Media Archive