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February 8: A Billion Slippers

Lawrence Bush
February 8, 2017
Florence Zacks Melton, who invented Shoulda Shams, removable shoulder pads, in the 1940s, and Dearfoams, foam-soled, washable slippers -- introduced in 1958, with more than a billion pairs now sold -- died at 95 on this date in 2007. Co-founder of R.G. Barry Corporation, which today controls nearly 40 percent of the U.S. slipper market, Melton held nineteen patents for devices that included seat covers, neck pillows, and insulated pizza delivery boxes. She was a daughter of immigrant poverty in Philadelphia who dropped out of high school three months before graduation to increase her hours working at Woolworth’s to help pay her family’s rent. At age 75 she launched the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, a Jerusalem-based, two-year program that has graduated over 28,000 people since 1986, at sites in six countries. She also created the Florence Melton Communiteen High School for post-bar/bas mitsve teens, with facilities in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. “If I have touched your life, my friend, Remember that you’ve touched mine; And if together we changed the world a bit, We’ve all been touched by the Divine.” --Florence Melton

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.