Female business owners in England, 1849-1901

Aston, Jennifer (2012). Female business owners in England, 1849-1901. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This doctoral thesis uses female entrepreneurship as a case study to highlight the flaws and limitations of using gender as a lens to view the social and economic opportunities available to women in nineteenth-century England. Through analysing trade directory data, and reconstructing the lives of a hundred businesswomen using sources including census returns,newspapers, photographs, probate records and advertisements, this thesis demonstrates that female entrepreneurs did not conform to a historiography that would see them solely employed in ‘feminine’ trade types or in ‘feminine’ ways of trading. Rather, women remained an integral part of the urban economy across England throughout the nineteenth-century with a consistent percentage of female owned firms engaged in making products. Analysis of the hundred case studies reveals that women were able to become business owners through a variety of means and they remained the senior partner in family firms until they chose to retire or died. This thesis also shows how women could use their position as business owners to acquire the luxury possessions and display the investment and asset distribution behaviours that men used to secure their middle class status, thus demonstrating that economically independent women could achieve and maintain middle-class status.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, Other
Other Funders: Economic History Society
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/3805


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