For over 50 years, women in and around Cotton Incorporated lead the charge in providing resources and research needed to help companies develop and market superior, innovative and profitable products. The 2023 Women’s History Month theme is Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories. This month, Cotton Incorporated is celebrating women who have had influence in our world through the process of taking cotton from the land to the shelves to ourselves.
Once known as the “Queen of Cotton”, Dr. Ruth Benerito was inducted into the Cotton Hall of Fame in 2019 for her work in cellulose chain segments. Her research was crucial in leading the way to wrinkle-free cotton during her time as a U.S. Department of Agriculture chemist in the 1960s. Dr. Benerito found a way to tame cotton, into a fabric she lovingly called, “wash-wear cotton.” Born in New Orleans, Dr. Benerito received degrees from Tulane University and the University of Chicago before beginning her work for USDA in 1953. For her role in developing “wrinkle-free” (durable press, wash-and-wear) cotton, she was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (2008). She was 97-years-young when she passed away in 2013.
Today, women continue to elevate cotton through Cotton Incorporated for through their leadership in cotton production, research, marketing and as customers. Since it was founded in 1970, the not-for-profit company does not manufacture or sell products but conducts research to benefit every link on the cotton supply chain and develops promotions that encourage the use and desirability of cotton and cotton products.
As a recognized global authority and resource for all things cotton, the departments of Cotton Incorporated are comprised of women that continually develop resources for each phase. These women difference-makers in the cotton industry and in senior leadership at Cotton Incorporated include, but are not limited to:
Kimberley S. Kitchings, Senior Vice President, Consumer Marketing
Vikki Martin, Vice President, Fiber Competition
Mary Ankeny, Vice President, Product Development & Implementation Operations
Melissa Bastos, Director, Corporate Strategy and Consumer Insights
Linda DeFranco, Director, Fashion Marketing
Susan Yvonne Jaconis, Ph.D., Director of
Agricultural Research (cottonseed and plant physiology)
Kaitlyn Bissonnette, Ph.D., Director of Agricultural Research (plant pathology and nematology)
Sally Taylor, Ph.D., Director of Agricultural Research (entomology)
The following Cotton Board members were recently highlighted by the organization on The Fabric of Our LivesTM site:
Kathy Fowler, Cotton Producer
Rebecca Thom, 4th Generation Farmer, Farm Manager
Emily Gigot, Sr Sustainability Manager
Barbara Buhr, SVP of Global Sourcing for Destination XL
Sonja Chapman, Cotton Board Chairwoman
Through Cotton Incorporated, cotton became the first commodity to market directly to the consumer. The icon for this outreach was the Seal of Cotton trademark, a logo indicating that the product contains cotton. Since its introduction in 1973, the Seal of Cotton has been used on a variety of cotton-containing and cotton-related products, from apparel and beauty products to laundry detergent. The Company’s 1989 The Fabric of Our LivesTM campaign conveyed the emotional connection between cotton and consumers, and how cotton touches our lives every day.