Thursday, April 28, 2011

Julia Emanuel, The Lady in Lavender

The year is 1889. Imagine a tall, slender young woman at work in the back room of the Meyer Brothers Drug Store at the corner of Calhoun and Columbia Streets. She is Julia Emanuel, a recent graduate of the College of Pharmacy of the University of Michigan, the only woman in her class of forty one students. Like her male colleagues, she takes great pride in mixing powders and syrups to meet the needs of the pharmacy's regular stream of doctors and customers. Unlike her co-workers, however, Julia spends her entire work days in the back room. Even though a pharmacist, she is made to feel odd! She is not allowed to wait on the customers because that is not what women do. She feels like a skeleton living in the firm's closet!

Women in this period rarely graduated from college or even thought of pursuing a career outside the home. Instead of feeling discouraged by this rigid discrimination, Julia Emanuel, the pharmacist, became a legend in Fort Wayne. Sometimes referred to as "the lady in lavender" because she loved purple, she was an ambitious, talented, one of a kind entrepreneur and bon vivant!

For ten years Julia worked in the back room of Meyer's Pharmacy; then she broke free and started her own business. Over the years, she operated from locations on West Berry Street and on West Wayne Street. Her first shop was 25 feet square with neither a furnace nor a stock room. For her first twenty years in business, her shop was known as the Arcade Pharmacy. She was afraid people wouldn't come to a shop with a woman's name on it. Finally, she changed the sign to read Miss Emanuel's Chemist Shop. She was now a downtown landmark. Her hours were from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Julia instilled confidence in her customers with her great accuracy in filling prescriptions. At heart she was a chemist. She became known for her headache powders, special creams and beauty products.

Julia projected a female perspective. She wanted her customers to take from her store "a sense of warmth, friendliness, and confidence." When she was able to hire employees, she insisted on hiring only women. She also wanted her employees to be college graduates.

What gave Julia the special drive that she needed to be so successful and unique for her time? People often said that she was born to be a pharmacist. She came from a family of doctors. Her father, grandfather, and three uncles were doctors. She grew up surrounded by talk of medical cures. Her mother was also a powerful role model. Julia's father had died when she was a young child; starting with his collection of medicines, her mother opened pharmacies in Antwerp and Paulding, Ohio, to support her three small children. Julia knew first hand the importance of being an independent woman. No surprise that she was active in the suffrage movement!

After fifty two years as a pharmacist in Fort Wayne, Julia retired in 1943 at the age of 73. Two years later, however, she returned to work at Jefferson Pharmacy because of the manpower shortage during World War II. After the war, she became known as an avid golfer, community volunteer, world traveler and bon vivant. She loved being surrounded by friends; she especially loved attending University of Michigan football games.

Julia also loved to express her opinion. "Age! That's simply a matter of the mind. It never occurs to me to consider age as a barrier. When I want to do something I do it," she told a reporter when she was 75. She was still getting good golf shots and walking the course. "And don't forget good posture. Standing erect is not only more comfortable, but it keeps us healthier in our bodily functions."

And so Jullia Emanuel kept playing golf, kept globe trotting, kept wearing lavender, and kept having a good time until her death in 1962 at the age of 91.

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