Woman of the Century/Harriet Hubbard Aver
AYER, Mrs. Harriet Hubbard, business woman and journalist, born in Chicago, Ill., in 1852. Her maiden n;ime was Hubbard. The Hubbard family tree extended back without a break to 1590. About 1844 its then youngest offshoot HARRIET HUBBARD AVER. left New England for Chicago and there his youngest daughter was born She was educated in the Convent of the Sacred Heart, where she w;is graduated at fifteen years of age, and soon after was married to Mr. Ayer. Her social life was distinguished. Her husband's wealth enabled her to train and gratify her taste and love for beauty, and her home became a house famous for its refinement and hospitality. She was then, as now, a many-sided worn in. Her husband depended upon her and owed much of his fortune to her guidance. In every philanthropic effort her name was in the fore-front of those who gave and those who did. An indefatigable student always, her reading covered the literature of all time. In painting and in plastic art, in crystal and in porcelain, in fabrics and in form, her judgment acquired a mathematical exactness. Her frequent trips abroad made London, Paris, Vienna and Rome second homes to her. She speaks a half-dozen languages. Reverses came in 1882 and Mr. Ayer failed for several millions. Disheartened by the blow, he became a wreck. Mrs Ayer gave up to her husband’s creditors much that she might have legally claimed as her own. Without a dollar and with two little daughters dependent upon her, she went from a home of luxury into the arena in which men tight for bread. There she fought and won the fight. She became a business woman of the highest type of the present, without ceasing to be the gentle-woman of the past A few weeks after the failure she was a saleswoman in a leading shop in New York. For eight hours a day, and sometimes for fourteen, she worked behind the counter, returning to the tiny apartment where she, her mother and her children were attended by a solitary maid-of-all-work, to write letters, sketches, essays and editorials by the weary hour. Within a year she had an income from her salary in the shop, from the agreed-upon commissions on her sales, from her pen, and from a successful real estate operation, devised and carried out by herself, of more than ten-thousand dollars a year. Such a success is almost beyond belief, as it is almost without a parallel. The strain upon her health was too great. A change became inevitable. She decided to leave the shop and begin to buy goods and furnish houses for her friends upon commission. She succeeded in this departure also, and was soon able to take a house of her own. In an unfortunate moment for herself she offered the Recamier toilet preparations to the public. An unfortunate moment, first, because within a month the house was filled from top to bottom with women trying to manufacture them fast enough to meet the public demand, so that the home ceased to be a home. An unfortunate moment again, because the rapidity with which the Recamier preparations began to make her fortune excited the avarice of some of the assistants whom she had gathered about her, and led to a conspiracy to capture the Recamier Company. The careless generosity with which she had given away some shares of her stock in the company was abused. A despemte, determined tight was made to wrest the control of the company from her and to deprive her of all share in the profits of her industry and her brain. Mrs. Ayer discovered this conspiracy while in Europe. She returned to find her business in the possession of her foes, her offices barricaded against her, and her money used to hire lawyers to rob her of her rights. Alone, ill, reduced to absolute poverty a second time, this undaunted woman showed that the blood of the Hubbards, which had flowed through soldiers' veins in 1776, in 1812, in 1846 and in 1861, was fighting blood still. At once she began the fight, one against many, a pauper against millionaires, and won. The court found that she was absolutely right and her adversaries absolutely wrong. Every claim she made was conceded. At the close of the litigation she was again in possession as sole owner of the business, the offices and the money. Since that victory Mrs. Ayer has devoted herself to extending and increasing the work of the Recamier Company, of which she is the president and chief owner. The company occupies a five-story building on Fifth avenue and a factory on Thirty-first street, New York, and employs about fifty people. The Recamier toilet preparations are bought and sold ;is standard pharmaceutical compounds in the United States and over all the world. The company stands as a monument to a fight won by a woman. Mrs. Ayer is in the prime of life and superintends personally every department of her great business.