By Ray Schultz
At a time when most firms would not even hire female secretaries, women were sending direct mail—in some cases to survive. The proof is these letters mailed around the turn of the 20th Century.
In Chicago, a group called The Ten Girl Company sent “Gold Plated Handy Pins” to individuals, relying on an honor system for payment.
THE TEN GIRL COMPANY greets you and sends you with this letter six pair of their Gold Plated Handy Pins. The price we have made is 30 cents for the six pair and we hope that you can use them at that price, which is a great deal less than the stores are asking for them.
The Ten pointed out that we are not objects of charity, but have to make a living and our little company of girls, has not enough capital to sell their goods in a regular way.
We hope you will enclose three 10 cent pieces in the stamped envelope and mail it; if not, please be kind enough to put in the pins and return them. You don’t even need to write your name on the envelope, as the number tells us who pays for the pins.
Begging your pardon for troubling you and thanking you in advance for your kindness, we remain,
Yours for business, THE TEN GIRL COMPANY (1900)
P.S. We hope you will let us hear from you promptly, for if you don’t, we cannot send out any more pins.
Some of our feminine pioneers were mendicants: They sent letters asking for small sums of money, usually quarters or other coins. But others had burgeoning little businesses.
Beulah Hubbard, of Passaic, New Jersey, mailed cards offering silk ties. The cards, featuring her photo, stated, How Would You Like to Earn Your Own Living at My Age?
If you had to, I suppose you would do just as I am doing—GET busy.
“I am selling Neck Ties for my living and I want to supply You. I can supply you almost any color or combination of colors—Try me. Or will send Ladies Jabot if you prefer.
If, when you get my tie, you don’t say it is as good a bargain as you ever saw at form 50 cents to $1.00, return the tie and I will send back your money.
I honestly believe you can sell lots of these Ties at from 50c to $1.00.
$3.00 a dozen is my price to agents, prepaid.
Second Fold Here….(triangle) last fold here…Put 25 cents here I NEED THE MONEY
YOU’LL TRUST ME—WON’T YOU?
You use ties every day. I can’t convey an adequate idea of just how pretty my ties are. A picture won’t bring out the delicate colorings nor the silky texture, so I say, if you are not in every way pleased, I will return your money. I can furnish Ladies Jabots if you prefer. Say which.
Then there were letters with serious propositions. This one, dated July 8, 1892, is from the Women’s Land Syndicate:
The enclosed circular we trust will explain our plans and prospects fully. In it we have endeavored to show facts as they now exist on which we base our opinion that south Waukegan will have a population of at least 50,000, and when that point is reached our lots which cost the Syndicate $500,000 will be worth from three and one half to four million dollars.
That our Profit-Sharing Investment Bonds are considered an exceptionally profitable investment is evidence by the large number being sold to some of the most prominent financiers in the country. A Wall Street (New York) banker has made his wife a present of one hundred of them and we could name a dozen other less prominent bankers that have purchased for their wives.
You will notice in our circular what Mr. Jas. B. Hobbs, one of Chicago’s prominent bankers, has to say about us. Also Gen. Singleton, a man who has made more than a million dollars out of his shrewd investments.
We are W.C.T.U. women, some of us having labored for years in the cause. We know these Bonds are sure to prove very profitable and therefore we naturally prefer to have them owned as far as possible by white ribboners.
It is now evident that all our bonds will be sold before August 1st, so this will be your last opportunity to secure one or more in case you desire to do so.
You should therefore write us at once stating the exact number of Bonds you would like, enclosing a small deposit, and we ail reserve them for you until you can arrange to make the payment. They are $10 each and are sold only to women.
As this will probably be our last announcement before the Bonds are all sold, we wish to say we are greatly indebted to the Union Signal for its generous aid, and to the many temperance workers who are assisting us all over the country.
Thanking you in anticipation of an immediate reply, stating the number of Bonds you will want, if any, we are,
Yours very truly…