What happens if you're a single older woman trying to earn money in a time when most employers were looking for young, strong men to do physical labor?
You use the skills you've got. You work smarter, not harder. Oklahoma was built on individuals just like that!
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Meet Mary the entrepreneur: The Guthrie Woman Who Turned Buttons into a Business
A long time ago, when your grandparents were children, after people rushed to claim land in a new town called Guthrie, there was a lady who became very well-known.
She was "Button Mary" and she was a really interesting character. She arrived in Guthrie on the very first day, and set up her tent beside the railroad track.
Mary's sewing skills earned her a living
Every morning, when the sun came up, she'd walk around the busy area where people were living in tents. She carried a needle and thread with her, and she looked for men who'd lost a button on their clothes.
If she found someone who needed a button, she'd sew one on for them. Wasn't that a great service? Mary came straight to the customer and filled an immediate need.
➡️Of course, there was a catch.
All customers must pay--or else
She didn't just do this for free. She asked for a dime, just ten cents, for her work. If the man paid her, everything was fine. But if he didn't pay her, she would poke him with her needle!
That wasn't a very nice thing to do, but it's how she made sure people paid her for her work.
You won't get rich a dime at a time
Now, a dime doesn't sound like much today. But a dime in 1889 is about the same as $3.65 today (adjusting for inflation). For an unskilled laborer who earned less than $1.50 per day, it still wouldn't have been too high a price to pay--but Mary would have only needed to sew 15 buttons each day to rake in the same amount of wages. Estimating five minutes to sew on a button means that she could earn a day's living in about an hour and a half. Smart. Very smart.
Button Mary was an Okie with entrepreneurial skills. She saw that there were a lot of people in Guthrie who needed buttons sewn on their clothes, and she found a way to make money by helping them.
She was famous in Guthrie for her button-sewing business!
****If you enjoy reading articles about early Oklahoma history, you might enjoy, The Oklahoma rancher who played by his own rules
Hi, I'm Judy! I love bringing a magnifying glass to where psychology and history cross. What makes people do what they do? Why did they make that choice? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments and share this article on social media and with family and friends, if you'd like.