Schary, Hope Skillman (c. 1908–1981)

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Schary, Hope Skillman (c. 1908–1981)

American executive who founded Skillmill, a textile-manufacturing firm. Name variations: Hope Skill-man; Mrs. Saul Schary. Born Hope Skillman in Grand Rapids, Michigan, around 1908; died in New Milford, Connecticut, on May 23, 1981; daughter of Frederic Cameron Skillman and Mary (Christie) Skillman; graduated from Goucher College in Maryland, 1961; married Saul Schary, on December 15, 1934.

Probably the first woman to own a textile-manufacturing company, Hope Skillman Schary was a female chief executive at a time when there were very few women in upper management. After many years as a role model for women hoping to enter the upper echelons of the work force, in later life Schary turned her energies directly to the cause of women's rights, emerging as a leader of longstanding volunteer organizations devoted to the advancement of women.

Born Hope Skillman in Grand Rapids, Michigan, around 1908, Schary was an associate editor at Parnassus magazine (1932–33) and The Fine Arts (1933–34), both in New York City. As a textile designer, she was an assistant stylist with the Ameritex division of Cohn-Hall-Marx Co. (1934–35), stylist (1935–39), and director (1939–42). She then founded Skillmill, Inc. in 1944. Asked once by an interviewer how she had settled on her chosen career, Schary answered that she needed to become self-sustaining (she was married in 1934 to Saul Schary, an artist) and indicated a more general desire to take advantage of her education, drive, and ambition. Even after its wartime beginnings, Skillmill employed only women for some years. Schary remained the company's chief executive until her retirement in the early 1960s.

Schary then stepped into a leadership position at Fashion Group, Inc., an industry association of 5,000 women, serving as president from 1958 to 1960. Gaining recognition for her work on women's-rights issues, Schary became involved with the National Council of Women of the United States, a volunteer organization with a history stretching back to the late 19th century, and served as its president (1970–72 and 1976–78). At the time of her death in 1981, she held the office of vice president in a similar worldwide organization, the International Council of Women.

James M. Manheim , freelance writer and editor, Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Schary, Hope Skillman (c. 1908–1981)

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