Thank You Jeannette Lee

I’m a third generation “working mom.” (Third generation with a job outside the home.  We all know that every mom works.) My grandmother worked for years at a bank and my mom worked at Hallmark here in Kansas City. During her career she was fortunate enough to work for a true pioneer in terms of working women, Jeannette Lee.

Jeannette started as an artist at Hallmark in 1939 after graduating from what is now UMKC.  She intended to work only a few years, expecting (as was common at the time) to eventually leave and have a family.  But it didn’t take long for her to decide that she could successfully manage a corporate career and family, and in 1946 she was named director of Hallmark’s creative art department. 


 

She was named to the board of directors in 1961, and appointed Vice president and Art Director in 1967—a move that made her the first female corporate officer at Hallmark. Jeannette became Vice President-Corporate Design in 1972.

There were many “firsts” during Jeannette’s career, including that she became the first woman president of the Kansas City Art Institute’s Board of Governors,  but my favorite barrier-breaking Jeannette story hits close to home for all of us working gals. It has been published before, but it’s too good not to share here.

In the early 1960s Jeannette was the first woman to wear a pantsuit to work at Hallmark. That’s right—women wore skirts and stockings every day back then. (I don’t think I have a single pair of pantyhose anywhere in my house.) Anyway, on that day, she called company founder (and her boss) J.C. Hall before a scheduled meeting to give him a heads up about her attire. Jeannette called J.C. and said, “I just wanted to let you know I’m wearing pants.” And J.C. responded, “Good, so am I.”

So we girls all owe Jeannette a big thank you. I owe her thanks on behalf of my mom, myself, and my daughters. Because of her (and others like her) opportunities for women in business become more and more pervasive each day.

Because my mom worked for her for a number of years, I was fortunate enough to know Jeannette as I was growing up. Mom likes to tell about the time (at about age eight) I provided critiques of huge stack of greeting card concepts. My comments were written on index cards inserted in the card proofs, in the same manner that I had seen my mom provide feedback in the past, and submitted straight-faced to the great lady herself. Of course Jeannette thanked me quite sincerely for my input, recognizing an opportunity to make a young girl feel smart, and capable. So there’s another “thank you” I owe to her.

The critiquing pen was in the other hand last weekend when Jeannette graciously reviewed “Where Does Mommy Go?” at my request.

Still a smart cookie in her nineties, this is what she had to say:

“There’s more to this book than its fun verse and darling illustrations. It proclaims the honor of working, regardless of the profession, and it underscores the fact that grown-up girls can have adventures outside the home while being loving mothers within it. Beautiful.”

That brings my thank you count to five so, Jeannette: thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you!





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