In 1886, the newly founded California Perfume Company recruited Persis Foster Eames Albee, a widow who had been running a small store from her home in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, as a saleswoman. Dressed elegantly, Albee started going door to door, peddling perfume sets and, later, creams, balms and toothpaste to her fellow women. “Persis was a welcome sight,” writes the Historical Society of Cheshire County. “She was not considered a nuisance, but as a ‘friendly neighbor come to call’.” The California Perfume Company would later become Avon, and Albee was the first ever “Avon lady”, the term describing the women who, still today, sell Avon products including make-up and perfume directly to their peers.
Today’s peer-to-peer pioneers are social-media influencers. Australia’s own modern-day Albee is Rebecca Gawthorne, a Sydney dietician with 145,000 Instagram followers,...
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