In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women’s businesses – from small local concerns to financial empires – offered women independence, supported their families, and supplied essential goods and services to their communities and the world. They also contributed to much-needed legal and social change and set the stage for the female entrepreneurs who would come later. All this was accomplished despite immense financial barriers, an inequitable legal system, and the widely held belief that women had no business in business.
Women’s Concerns explores the lives of twelve women who owned and operated businesses in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It focuses on the ways they created personal and public identities and managed the contradictions between their entrepreneurial ambitions and deeply entrenched attitudes about women’s roles.