In spring 2015, I had the honour of being a visiting fellow at the Bodleian Libraries via the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation. As part of the fellowship, I had the opportunity to curate an exhibition in the Bodleian Proscholium, “In Pursuit of Beauty: modern guides to the hair, face, and body, 1784-1933.”
On July 16, the American Historical Association announced its 2013 grant recipients, and I’m delighted to have been awarded a Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant for research in the history of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The grant will be used for an upcoming research trip to Delhi and Canberra for my new project, Imperial Beauty: the global trade in appearance, 1830-1930.
The article charts American Jeannette Scalé’s extraordinary transformation into “Mrs. Pomeroy,” London’s leading complexion specialist at the end of the nineteenth century. As the fictional personality “Mrs. Pomeroy,” Scalé dominated the elite beauty market as London’s de facto “authority on the subject of the complexion and of the art of beauty in general.” At 29 Old Bond Street, “Mrs. Pomeroy” sold “hygienic complexion treatments,” a personal line of toilet preparations including Pomeroy Complexion Purifier and Pomeroy Astringent Tonic Lotion. “Mrs. Pomeroy” was also one of the first in London to offer electrolysis(!), and she was reportedly adept at the removal of “superfluous hair, moles, birth marks.” At the height of her success, “Mrs. Pomeroy” saw a turnover of £21,000 a year (approximately £1.2 million today) and employed eighty female assistants.
Jeannette Scalé/Pomeroy’s story doesn’t have a happy ending. It does, however, reveal businesswomen’s changing opportunities in England’s retail market, opportunities engendered through new systems of advertising, growing anonymity in the expanding urban scene, and novel forms of self-representation that did not necessarily impinge upon businesswomen’s respectability.
You can find the WHR link here or contact me for access to the full text.