Rosenthal, Ida

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ROSENTHAL, IDA (1886–1973), businesswoman, dressmaker and inventor of the modern brassiere. Ida Kaganovich was born near Minsk, in Czarist Russia; her father was a Hebrew scholar and her mother ran a small general store. She emigrated to the United States in 1904 at the age of 18, following her boyfriend, William Rosenthal, whom she married in 1907. With a Singer sewing machine purchased on an installment plan, Ida made a living as a seamstress. In the early 1920s, the Rosenthals joined with Enid Bisset to open Enid Frocks, a small custom dress shop in Manhattan. Unhappy with the way their expensive dresses fit around the bosom, the partners designed a brassiere with cups that separated and supported the breasts; they called the bra a "Maiden form." The Enid Manufacturing Company they founded to meet the demand for their new product became the Maiden Form Brassiere Company in 1923 and Maidenform, Inc. in 1960. In 1925 they stopped making dresses and made Maiden Form bras exclusively. Ida Rosenthal managed the sales and traveled nationally and internationally to open new markets. By the end of the 1930s, Maiden Form products, eventually including other kinds of women's lingerie and swimsuits, were sold throughout the world. During World War ii, the Rosenthals had no trouble getting rubber for elastic straps because studies showed that working women who wore the bra suffered less fatigue than women who did not wear this garment. The Rosenthals also helped the war effort by producing a "pigeon vest," a cup-shaped cloth that held a courier pigeon. A 1949 advertising campaign built their brand name with racy ads, featuring bra-clad women in various settings, starting with, "I dreamed I went shopping in my Maiden Form bra." The Rosenthals made many philanthropic contributions, including establishing the Ida and William Rosenthal Fellowship in Judaica and Hebraica at New York University. When William died in 1958, Ida Rosenthal became the chief executive officer of the company. In 1963 she was the only female member of an American apparel industry delegation that visited the Soviet Union. Rosenthal went to her office each day until her death from pneumonia at the age of 87; her daughter Beatrice Coleman succeeded her as chief executive.

[Sara Alpern (2nd ed.)]