Bette Nesmith

... was born Bette Clair McMurray in Dallas, Texas, in 1924. In 1942 she married Warren Audrey Nesmith, just before he left to fight in World War II. Their son Michael was born while he was overseas (on 30 December 1942). In 1946, after Warren Nesmith returned home, they divorced. Bette worked as a secretary at Texas Bank and Trust in Dallas, eventually attaining the position of executive secretary, which (according to Wikipedia) was the highest position open at that time to women in the industry.

In order to make extra money, Bette used her talent painting windows in the bank at Christmas. This was what gave her the idea of a paint that could be used to cover up typing errors: she realised that "with lettering, an artist never corrects by erasing, but always paints over the error. So I decided to use what artists use. I put some tempera water–based paint in a bottle and took my watercolor brush to the office. I used that to correct my mistakes."

She secretly used her white correction paint for five years, making some improvements with help from Michael's school chemistry teacher. Some bosses admonished her for using her "paint out", but her fellow secretaries frequently asked to borrow it. She eventually began marketing it in 1956, as 'Mistake Out'. She later set up her own company, and the name of the product was changed to Liquid Paper.

At the start of the 1960s, Bette's home still doubled as company headquarters, and Mistake Out operated at a small loss. In 1962 Bette Nesmith married Robert Graham, who joined her in running the company. They divorced in 1975.

By 1979, the product had become an indispensable tool of the secretarial trade; the company employed 200 people and made 25 million bottles of Liquid Paper per year. At this point Bette sold it to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5 million. She died a few months later, aged 56.

Mike Nesmith inherited half of his mother's $50+ million estate; he used some of it to establish the Council on Ideas, a think tank with a retreat centre located near Santa Fe, New Mexico, devoted to exploring world problems.

© Haydn Thompson 2017