The business of dressmaking.

Josie Wanous Stuart

“I was brought up on a farm near Glencoe, Minnesota. While still in high school I was employed in a local drug store as an interpreter (being of Bohemian parentage) and to sell books and stationery. From the first I was attracted by the red and black labels on the fluid extract bottles and studied the labels with keen interest…

Josie Annie Wanous

After two years in the drug store, I had been infatuated with work, and went to the Minneapolis College of Pharmacy. I paid my own expenses with the money I had saved, partly by doing bookkeeping in an office while pursuing my studies. I had tried dressmaking and millinery but disliked them both. My taste and talent were for chemistry. After graduation I passed the State examination and obtained my license.

Then my hardest struggle began. I went from drug store to drug store offering my services, but no pharmacist would employ a girl. Desperate for work and determined to remain in the city until a position offered itself in a drugstore, I took a position selling gloves in a large department store. The manager happened to be in difficulties with the man-manager in the drug department. After getting into (legal) difficulties for dispensing medicines without having a registered pharmacist, the pharmacist whom they secured was not at all satisfactory. In the floor manager's effort to get my pdedigree ha was very much surprised to learn of my pharmacist's license; so in less than two hours, I was placed in charge of the drug department with the advanced wages of two dollars a day. I remained there for several years, but longed to work in a regular drug store. I finally gave up my position, with a salary of $50.00 a month, to take a month's engagement on trial in a pharmacy at $8.00 a week. I stayed there three years.

Then my sister urged me to set up in business for myself, even if I had to do it in a dry-goods box. So I rented two rooms on a second floor, and added to them as my business grew until I had seven [roms]. From there I moved into a large store on Nicollet avenue.

While in the drug business, I was successful in securing a patent and placing on the market the little Wanous Shampoo-Bag, which has become popular in every State in the Union. I am no longer in the retail drug business, being interested in the Wanous Shampoo-Bag, and in a nice home and baby boy."

Drugstore Memories: American Pharmacists Recall by David L. Cowen, 2002.

“…A graduate of Dr. Drew’s School of Pharmacy in Minneapolis, Josephine Wanous became the first woman pharmacist to be registered by examination in Minnesota, receiving license number 679 on January 28, 1891…”

American Woman Pharmacists, Contributions to the Field, by Metta Lou Henderson, 2002 Haworth Press.Booth selling Wanous' shampoo-bag.

Josie A. Wanous was not one of Madame Boyd’s clients from the social registry. Wanous ran her own pharmacy at a time when it was unusual for a woman to operate such a business. In 1891, she was one of the first women be licensed by the State of Minnesota as a Registered Pharmacist. Her line of cosmetics and toiletries including the Wanous Shampoo Bag, sold worldwide. In 1905 Marshal Field of Chicago had ordered a total of 12,000 shampoo bags to sell. Her shampoo bags were produced until WWII, when it became impossible to acquire the internationally sourced natural products.

An unusual four piece ensemble is one of the garments made by Madame Boyd for Josie Wanous. It is a versatile mixture of flounced skirt with bodices that can be worn for either day or evening. An additional dickey turns the evening bodice into a formal afternoon dress. In this portrait, the hem of the dress is showing under her coat. She married Henry Arthur Stuart in 1909, about the time of this portrait.

Josie Wanous

See photographs of Josie or her shop

For additional information see Josie A. Wanous Papers Minnesota Historical Society

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