Women’s History Month – Women Who Made History at Armstrong Cork Company

My name is James McMahon and for the past year I have been working as a project archivist for LancasterHistory. My responsibilities include cataloguing and digitizing a vast collection of archival materials that document the significant role of the cork industry in the local economy. As Women’s History Month draws to a close, I want to take a moment to briefly recognize the contributions of two women who played pioneering roles at Armstrong Cork Company (now Armstrong World Industries) in their respective fields of expertise. 

Mrs. Hazel Dell Brown (1892-1982)

Book signing, 1962
Hazel Dell Brown (left) with Mary Kraft (center) and Louisa Cowan of the Bureau of Interior Design at a reception marking the publication of The Armstrong Book of Interior Decoration,” 1962. Photo: LancasterHistory, Armstrong Archive.

Mrs. Brown began her career at Armstrong in 1921 as the company’s first interior decorator. She served as Director of Armstrong’s Bureau of Interior Design from 1922 until 1952 and as a consultant from 1953 until 1957. Born Hazel Snepp in Lafayette Indiana, Miss Snepp began her career as an art teacher. After studying at the Pratt Institute in New York and following the death of her husband L. Glenn Brown in World War I, the Indianapolis School Board appointed her to head all of its district-wide art programs. Her background as an artist, teacher, and administrator served her well in her career at Armstrong.

Her designs appeared in national magazine advertisements and in a series of company produced booklets featuring Armstrong flooring as an integral part of inventive and often thrifty room and home designs. With names like The Story of the Five Dream Kitchens (1935) and A Dream House for a Small Budget (1947), booklets authored by Mrs. Brown offered practical solutions to everyday problems for homeowners and homemakers around the country. She and her department also offered homemakers the opportunity to write for them for design recommendations, sometimes receiving hundreds of letters a day!

Dr. Naomi G. Albanese (1916-1989)

Dr. Albanese was the first woman elected to the board of directors of Armstrong Cork Company. She served as a director from January 1974 until her death in December 1989. A nationally known authority in home economics and nutrition, she received her doctorate from Ohio State University and served as dean of the School of Home Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 1958 until her retirement in 1982.

The November 27, 1973 issue of the Intelligencer Journal of Lancaster announced the appointment of Dr. Albanese with the headline “1st Woman Director Named by Armstrong.” In announcing Albanese’s election to the board of directors, Armstrong president James Binns noted, “we look forward to the valuable insights that will be brought to our business by a woman of Dean Albanese’s stature, character, and record of accomplishment.”

Dr. Albanese was born in Scottdale, Pennsylvania in Westmoreland County. An expert in consumer affairs, Dr. Albanese provided a unique insight into consumer spending and purchasing habits, often serving as an advocate for consumer rights. A member of the Ford Consumer Appeals Board, she also was named by President Nixon’s chief energy advisor to one of seven citizen advisory committees to the Federal Energy Office in Washington in 1973 and to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for the Charlotte, North Carolina branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in 1976.

Mrs. Brown and Dr. Albanese played pioneering roles in promoting Armstrong Cork Company to consumers and in contributing to the overall success of the company. As women who made history, they also helped to set the stage for increased participation by women in the workforce and in the boardroom. Their lives and accomplishments are both inspirational as well as aspirational.







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