Founder of Home Interiors & Gifts, Inc.
by Mary Trotter Kion
To Mary C. Crowley, founder of Home
Interiors & Gifts, Inc., one of her greatest joys was sharing
the bounties of life she received. To this Christian woman of
business her most precious gift was her faith in Christ. The material
wealth she was blessed with in her adult years was the result
of her faith in God and in her self. Her grandparents instilled
in her the love of Jesus and he became her best friend. Mary was
wed in 1932, after heights graduation. The following year a son
was born followed by a daughter in 1935. Receiving little help
from her husband, where they lived in Sherman, Texas during the
depression, she had only one choice. If her children were not
to starve she needed to find a job. This was a time when bank
presidents were standing in bread lines but that didn't stop Mary.
God was gently urging her forward. And forward Mary went.
Mary selected a store she would like
to work in, dressed pretty, and armed herself with a confident
smile. She sailed through the doors of that store and got the
job. With out knowing it, here she began to develop the shrewd
business sense that later enabled her to become head of a multimillion
dollar company. But she didn't do it alone, and she knew that.
God was right beside her every step of the way. He was still with
Mary as she struggled, sole-supporter of her children, as she
attended business school in Dallas, Texas. After putting her children
in loving hands, other than her own, she lived in Dallas during
the week while attending classes. On weekends she returned home
to be with her children and work at Montgomery Wards.
Due to religious training and personal
inclination, she did not want to divorce her husband who was not
assisting in any way. But in 1939 she divorced him and took her
children to Dallas. By the time the depression was over and World
War II was beginning she was now studying to be a CPA and working
full time for an insurance company. Adding to her many problems,
Mary suffered from insomnia. But as always, during times of trial,
she turned this problem over to God. She'd tell him, "Lord, you
know I've got to get my rest. You worry about these problems.
You're going to be up all night anyway." Soon she'd be asleep
though all her other problems still remained. One concern was
the struggle to give tempered of her wages to her church. Before
payday, Mary and her children sometimes had nothing to eat but
cereal and milk but they never went hungry. Her children were
often the center of her thoughts but she was raising them in a
loving and caring home where they shared the responsibilities.
In 1948 Mary married David M. Crowley,
Jr. As she says in her book, You Can Too, they had "been in love
a long time." She met David when she worked for the insurance
company some years earlier. Now Mary could truly have a loving
home, and she wanted to make it as attractive as she could. As
an accountant for a furniture company Mary met many women with
the same desires towards their own homes. She'd seen considerable
evidence of this when young married couples came to buy entire
households of furniture. An idea was forming in Mary's busy brain,
though she was not aware of it at the time. She found that most
of these people had no idea of what accessories to use with their
new furniture, nor any knowledge of colors to coordinate it all
with. They needed decorating advice. Long before Home Interiors
& Gifts, Inc. was born its beginning was forming in her mind
when she wished there was a better way she could help these people.
Mary Crowley also wanted to be home
when her children returned from school, an impossible task while
working for the furniture store. In His own way, God was surely
handing Mary each individual piece of his plan for her future,
one idea and wish at a time, until the moment was right for Him
and her to put it all together.
When Mary became interested in Stanley
Home Products home party sales is was certainly one more step
closer to the birth of her own company. The next step in God's
plan for Mary came in 1954 when a man who imported gifts and decorative
accessories asked her to become his sales manager in a new direct-sales
company. After three years in this new venture Mary's staff had
increased to five hundred women selling on the party plan. The
success was overwhelming, and then the owner began including cocktail
parties into company functions. Mary highly objected to this.
He also put limits on the commissions the women selling could
make. Mary had no choice but to tell him she could not work for
him any longer under such conditions. His reply was to send her
what office furniture belonged to her. Mary was overwhelmed with
grief and in tears, but God's next step was about to be taken.
Home Interiors & Gifts, Inc. was
born. Though Mary was amazed at all the people who had faith in
her and helped, her main concern was whether this was what God
wanted her to do. She also was uncertain how her husband would
take the long hours she would need to spend on this new venture.
Dave was absolutely supportive and in December of 1957 Mary's
business was official. She always gave God credit for opening
the doors but she knew it was up to her to go through those doors.
God wouldn't just hand the business to her.
Most of the first women Displayers she
hired had never held a job or gone to college, and were totally
dependent on their husbands for support. Many of them needed help
with their appearance. Of all the things she lovingly taught them
one of the main things was to "be alert to the needs of other
women" and to see them as God saw them. With God's help, Mary
did her job well.
Soon Mary's company was paying dividends
and bonuses. She knew the business was off and running when, later,
her daughter opened up the East Coast for Home Interiors. Then
in 1962 the sales force recorded one million dollars in sales,
and Mary was diagnosed with cancer. Mary Crowley fought two bouts
with cancer but continued on. In 1977 she was one of twenty business
leaders invited to a conference with President Carter. She was
the first woman to serve on the board of directors of the Billy
Graham Evangelistic Association. She received two honorary doctorate
degrees before her death in 1986.
|Mary Trotter Kion is a freelance writer
who lives in Washington State. She enjoys writing about
women in history, as well as Western American History. She
has recently become an Editor on the subject of The Great
American Plains for the Internet's Suite 101. She is also
researching and writing a five-volume historical novel on
the Far West. Mary can be reached at: email@example.com