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Female enterprise in Georgian Derbyshire, c.1780-c.1830

Collinge, Peter Richard

Authors

Peter Richard Collinge



Abstract

Female Enterprise in Georgian Derbyshire, c.1780-c.1830 analyses quantitatively and qualitatively the continuing and increasing presence of middle-ranking women in the commercial environment of late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century England. It challenges an older and more pessimistic interpretation of decline, narrowing opportunities and withdrawal from business in response to intensifying separate spheres ideology. Instead, alongside significant levels of continuity in opportunities within a narrow range of 'feminine' economic sectors, it demonstrates the increasing presence of women as owner-managers of enterprise, and the ability of women to enter and survive in 'masculine' business environments. Whilst never more than a significant minority, women are, nevertheless, regarded as material, rather than peripheral players, in the development of the late-Georgian economy.
Despite the less regulated spaces and greater dynamism of more rapidly developing industrial towns (which provided women with opportunities to engage in business), emphasis is placed on a woman's ability to enter and remain in business being contingent upon her continued utilisation and reinforcement of familial, business and social connections. Whilst businesswomen were more constrained than men by legal, moral and social codes of conduct, it is evident throughout the research that the marketing, managing and organisation of their enterprises was comparable to their male counterparts. In a predominantly rural county like Derbyshire, proportionately more women were to be found engaged in enterprise than they were in towns and cities undergoing significantly greater industrial expansion and urban growth. For those women who out of necessity or choice took the decision to enter the business arena, their status and reputations as middle­ranking women were not compromised, but forged by their experiences.

Citation

Collinge, P. R. (2015). Female enterprise in Georgian Derbyshire, c.1780-c.1830

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