March 8 marks the centenary of the international women's day and here at adland we figured we should tip our hat to the pioneering women in advertising. Like the Former Executive Vice President of Gardner Advertising Company, Erma Perham Proetz. You might have heard of her pseudonym Mary Lee Taylor who shared recipes from the PET milk test kitchen, that show ran for over 20 years.
Erma Proetz was the first woman elected to the Advertising Hall of Fame. In both 1924 and 1925, she won the $1,000 Harvard Advertising Award for distinguished individual advertisements, based on "the most effective use of illustration in advertising." In 1927 she received the $2,000 Edward W. Bok prize by the Harvard Award Jury for the best planned and executed national advertising campaign for a single product. In 1935 Fortune Magazine named her as one of the 16 outstanding women in American business. She was on a roll.
In 1936 Proetz became president of the Women’s Advertising Club of St. Louis. That same year she was elected regional director of the St. Louis Branch of the Fashion Group, also serving as chairman of the Council of Women’s Clubs of the Advertising Federation of America. Upon her death in 1944, the St. Louis Fashion Group announced the establishment of an Erma Proetz Memorial Scholarship at Washington University School of Fine Arts "in recognition of her great interest in students and the wide help and encouragement she gave many young girls starting out on their careers."
In 1945 the Women’s Advertising Club of St. Louis established an annual Erma Proetz Award for the most outstanding creative work done by women in advertising. This award was dedicated to the memory of Erma Proetz, "who stood for the highest standards of advertising and whose faith in the ability of women in advertising was well known throughout the country."
Ms. Proetz wasn't just a trailblazer, she was also a mentor and her protege at Gardner advertising, Bea Adams, later served as vice president and creative supervisor at Gardner Advertising. She was named one of Life magazine's 27 "Women of Achievement," and was part of the five-person team that created the brand image for Busch Beer.
One of the recipients of the Erma Proetz Award was Olga Burroughs, who was honored in 1951 for pioneering a new type of outdoor advertising. Her firm Emerson & Burroughs had a franchise from the city of Sacramento during the late 1940s and early 1950s to display advertising panels on trash containers on downtown street corners, attaching weatherproof panels covered with color photos on the containers. It was considered so innovative that she gained national recognition for the idea.
So with a nod to the advertising ladies of the past, we'll note that while we might have "come a long way baby", but it's largely thanks to the women before us who opened the doors.
Trash can image by Robert Russel