Prior to 1900, there were a limited number of jobs that were acceptable for women. A sampling of those jobs included nurse, librarian, midwife and surprisingly, the position of postmaster. Rarely in the early 1900s, did a woman receive accolades from the public for her business knowledge and skills. One exception to that was Susie Schmitt Hanson.
Schmitt was born in Chaska and began her millner career when she was 16 (1888) in St. Paul. It was a glorious time of fancy bonnets, tight-fitting bodices, bustles and parasols. After four years in St. Paul, Schmitt returned to Chaska and operated a dressmaking shop for 12 years. She moved her business to Waconia in 1898 and focused on hat making.
At 40, Schmitt married a carpenter, Charles Hanson. Schmitt (childless) continued to work outside the home.
In an era when women were addressed as Mrs., followed by the last name of her husband., it is interesting to note that newspapers articles referred to Schmitt, as Mrs. Susie Schmitt Hanson. An oddity as both her maiden and married names were used.
When Schmitt died in 1956 at age 96, her obituary noted that she was an excellent business woman and that local business men were the pallbearers at her funeral. Local women formed an honor guard outside the church when her casket exited.
—Wendy Petersen Biorn
Executive director, Carver County Historical Society