Mae of Philadelphia

Purple tulle cap with pink and purple feathers from Mae's Millinery Shop.
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Mae Reeves moved to Philadelphia from Vidalia, Georgia, in 1934 during the second wave of the Great Migration. Reeves opened her own business, Mae Reeves’ Millinery, in 1940. For more than 50 years “Mae of Philadelphia” designed unique and fashionable turban, veiled, and feathered hats created from the world’s finest materials. Reeves quickly earned a reputation for making stylish hats for local women, visiting entertainers, and elites. As a black female small-business owner, Reeves inspired other black women with her entrepreneurial success and became active in the local Civil Rights Movement. At the Museum, visitors can virtually try on hats from Reeves’s shop on display.