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You May Have Heard of Rosie the Riveter, but Have You Heard of Brown Betty?

Brown Betties, Milwaukee, WI, 1944March is Women’s History month and I want to share some of UPS’s little-known women’s history.  UPS has employed women since the early days of the company.  They tended to be secretaries, telephone operators, billing recorders, stenographers and general office workers.  But by October 1942 – 10 months after the United States’ entrance into World War II and with men joining the armed forces by the thousands daily – UPS began to hire women to work in the operations side of the company. 

Seattle, Wash., the city that saw the birth of UPS, had the first facility to employ women in package operations positions.  By December 1942 women worked in the operations of Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco.  The women still worked behind the scenes, in jobs such as sorting, tracing, routing, and loading of packages.  These women UPSers quickly became known throughout the company as “Brown Betties.”

Why Brown Betties?

Around this time, men who drove the package cars and their helpers wore the iconic brown UPS uniforms and were casually referred to as “Brown Buddies.”  When the women who began filling these operational jobs needed nicknames, too, they became Brown Betties. 

Mazie Lanham, May 1943Eventually, UPS began to call on women to become drivers of the brown UPS package cars. In May 1943, the first Brown Betty to drive a package car was Mazie Lanham in Los Angeles. 

You can learn more about a modern day version of the Brown Betty by reading about Ginny Odom – a member of UPS’s Circle of Honor and UPS’s first woman driver to reach 35 years of safe driving as of October 2009.

Today, UPS’s commitment to a diverse workforce continues to evolve, most recently with the launch of the company’s Women’s Leadership Development program.  This program provides women with networking and skills development in an environment that fosters genuineness and promotes overall employee development.

Category: Business Insights
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    Comments [3]

  1. Illuminating as always, Jill!

  2. Great piece, Jill. For those who want to know more, here’s the link to the Women’s
    History Month website.

    http://womenshistorymonth.gov/

  3. I was hired as a package car driver in either 1972 or 1973 and worked for about a year out of Dallas. I have a photo of myself and Mr. Casey in ’73. I think there were no other female drivers at the time I was hired.

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