Women in Business, 1700-1850

January 2006
3 black and white, 4 line illustrations
312 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843831839
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press

Women in Business, 1700-1850

Nicola Phillips

A reappraisal of the business enterprises of women in the `long' eighteenth century, showing them to be more flourishing than previously thought.
Orthodox opinion is that in the `long' eighteenth century women, especially of the middle classes, had very little involvement with business affairs and enterprises, and that as a group they were more usually characterised by their domestic roles. This book takes issue with this view, arguing that the major factors which supposedly prevented women's economic activity in this period had much less impact than has previously been thought. It demonstrates that despite the pressure of gendered cultural expectations, financial barriers and legal disabilities, many women participated extensively in entrepreneurial activity as integrated members of trading networks, exchanging money, credit, property and goods with male traders on a regular basis throughout the period. The author examines how women in business engaged with the tangled legal systems of common law, borough customs and equity, showing that the legal doctrine of coverture did not in practice curtail married women's ability to trade on their own account; she goes on to look at women's business practices, partnerships and credit networks, including their involvement in the insurance business and newspaper advertising. Finally, she considers the impact of domestic ideology, particularly on women in the feminine trades of millinery and dressmaking, and the languages women used to express their commercial interests.


A valuable addition to the burgeoning literature on women's business activities. BUSINESS HISTORY REVIEW
[Succeeds] in significantly revising the persistent image of the limited role of lower-middle-class women in business. IRSH
A work that will be of great interest to both early modernists and modernists, not only to those who study women but also legal, economic, family, and social historians. JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY
A valuable addition to the growing body of literature that is currently examining the role of women in the history of economic enterprise. HISTORY
A dense, absorbing study. REVIEWS IN HISTORY
Should be of considerable interest not only to the specialists in women's and gender history, but to those interested in the economic and social developments of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. H-ALBION
A solid, in-depth treatment of predominantly London-based female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, which is thoroughly au fait with its historiographical context. EH.NET
A welcome addition to the historical field of women's work. Presents a complex and fascinating picture of female enterprise during the longue durée that makes an important contribution to our understanding of women's work and the urban middling sorts. ECONOMIC HISTORY REVIEW