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Valley Rewind: Claudia McGraw, the 'Apron Lady'

Courtesy of Swannanoa Valley Museum
Special to Black Mountain News
Claudia McGraw (1891-1986), known as the “Apron Lady” started what would become an international cottage industry in her coffee house, “McGraw’s Coffee House,” in the early 1930s.

This week, the Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center celebrates Women’s History Month with a focus on the impressive entrepreneurship of Claudia McGraw (1891-1986). Claudia, known as the “Apron Lady” started what would become an international cottage industry in her coffee house, “McGraw’s Coffee House,” in the early 1930s. Claudia made aprons and hung them up in up in her coffee house for sale, and eventually her work caught the eyes of not only local enthusiasts, but patrons who helped her sell her aprons in boutiques as far away as New York City. By the mid 1930’s, Claudia had employed 12 women sewers to keep up with all of her apron orders, and she was selling her aprons on an international scale. Famous patrons of Claudia's aprons include actress Greta Garbo, who bought eight “Apron Lady” aprons in the long bib style with frills, and Amy Vanderbilit, who helped make the aprons a status symbol for the upper class. Cladia McGraw was quoted as saying, “You can think better and you can cook better in becoming aprons.” The McGraw Coffehouse now houses the Black Mountian Chamber of Commerce on East State Street. Learn more about the amazing women of the Swannanoa Valley with the Swannanoa Valley Museum's online exhibit "A Timeline of Women's History in the Swannanoa Valley." Learn more at www.swannanoavalleymuseum.com/exhibits or join our facebook page Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center.