Jean Evelyn Slutsky
October 12, 1923
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||April 29, 2015 (aged 91)|
Parkland, Florida, U.S.
|Education||City College of New York|
|Known for||Co-founder of Weight Watchers|
|Spouse(s)||Mortimer Nidetch (divorced); Frank Schifano (divorced)|
Jean Evelyn Nidetch (née Slutsky, October 12, 1923 – April 29, 2015) was an American business entrepreneur who was the founder of the Weight Watchers organization.
Jean Nidetch was born on October 12, 1923 in the New York City borough of Brooklyn to her parents, David and Mae Slutsky. Hailing from a lower-class family, Jean’s parents worked as a cab driver and a manicurist. Graduating from the Girls High School in Bedford, Jean’s academic talents led her to a scholarship offer from Long Island University. She chose, instead, to attend the City College of New York, where she majored in business administration.
Jean’s career began when she dropped out of school after her father had passed in 1942. Providing for her family, Jean began working at Mullin Furniture Company, where she earned a mere 10 dollars a week. She then worked a quick stint at Man O’War Publishing Company, where she produced sheets for horse players. This job ended when Fiorello La Guardia's campaign for Mayor of New York City focused on ending horse racing, which was detrimental to the industry. Jean later found work at the Internal Revenue Service.
After meeting Marty Nidetch at the Internal Revenue Service, the two married on April 20, 1947. After a few months of marriage, the young couple moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma so Marty could take a job as a credit manager. Marty was then promoted to a manager at a store in Warren, Pennsylvania, which led to the couple’s second move in less than a year.
In February 1952, the family moved back to New York, where Marty got a job as a bus driver. Jean stayed home with their ever-growing family. Although Jean decided to stay home as a homemaker, she was involved with many charities in the area, which helped her develop the skills needed later in her life to make Weight Watchers a global brand.
Jean had struggled with her weight all her life, being an overweight child and young woman. Her struggles led her to the New York City Department of Health Obesity Clinic, where she was told she would need to start a strict diet. Frustrated with her progress and uncommitted to the plan given to her, she chose not to go back to the clinic, saying that the women who ran the clinic had never been overweight in their lives and did not understand the struggle.
Instead, she chose to invite six overweight women over to her house, where they could meet weekly to talk about their struggles and discuss diet tricks and tips. She did establish one rule, which was that women should consult with their doctors before entering her support group, which is a rule that Weight Watchers continues to follow to this day. This support group was the beginning of what was soon to be Weight Watchers, as Jean incorporated her group in 1963.
Word of mouth grew the brand, and what was once a small support group turned into hundreds of women seeking Jean for advice, who lost 70 pounds on her diet. She charged 25 cents for her clientele to gain access to her plan to cover costs.
In 1973, the 10th anniversary of Weight Watchers, Jean decided to step down from the company. In 1978, the company was sold to J.D. Heinz for 24 dollars a share, or 71.2 million dollars. Jean received around 7 million dollars from her shares of the company being sold, which also stated that she would never start another weight loss company. She became the face of the company and continued to be a consultant for the company.
- Langer, Emily. "Jean Nidetch, ardent promoter of Weight Watchers, dies at 91". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
- McFadden, Robert D. (April 29, 2015). "Jean Nidetch, 91, Dies; Eyeing Her Girth, She Helped Start Weight Watchers". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 29, 2015.
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