After being struck by the overwhelming poverty she saw on a trip to Puerto Rico in 1946, Edna Ruth Byler was moved to take action. She believed that she could provide sustainable economic opportunities for artisans in developing countries by creating a viable marketplace for their products in North America. She began a grassroots campaign among her family and friends in the United States by selling handcrafted embroidery out of the trunk of her car. Byler began selling handmade crafts in Pennsylvania made by Haitian women she met on her mission visits there in the 1940s. Her organization, which is now called Ten Thousand Villages, is believed to be one of the first Fair Trade organizations in the United States.
- Look closely at the photograph. Edna Ruth Byler is holding the fabric object. Describe the objects on the table and behind the people. What do you notice about the objects?Are they like anything you have in your home? Why or why not?
- Edna Ruth Byler believed that she could provide sustainable economic opportunities for artisans in developing countries by creating a viable marketplace for their products in North America. Refer back to the description of fair trade. How was Edna Ruth Byler helping to support free trade?
- Edna Ruth Byler started the organization Ten Thousand Villages. Now there are over 70 Ten Thousand Villages stores across the U.S., and more than 300 specialty shops sell Ten Thousand Villages products. How does her vision support free trade?
Edna Ruth Byler, 1968. Courtesy of Ten Thousand Villages.