By Alison Kay
Publish Date: 1st April 2009
Pages: 186 pages
The Foundations of Female Entrepreneurship explores the relationship between home, household headship and enterprise in Victorian London. It examines the notions of duty, honor and suitability in how women’s ventures are represented by themselves and others and engages in a comparison of the interpretation of historical female entrepreneurship by contemporaries and historians in the UK, Europe and America. It argues that just as women in business have often been hidden by men, they have often also been hidden by the ‘home’ and the conceptualization of separate spheres of public and private agency and of ‘the’ entrepreneur.
Foundations offers new insight into the motivations of the Victorian women who opted to pursue enterprises of their own. Using both discourse and data to connect enterprise, proprietor and household, it provides a multi-dimensional picture of the Victorian female proprietor and moves beyond the stereotypes. It argues that active business did not exclude women, although careful representation was vital and this has obscured the similarities of their businesses with those of many male business proprietors.
‘Kay reclaims not only the title of entrepreneur, but also the economic importance of those ‘survivalist entrepreneurs’ in the process of industrialisation.’
– Amy Erickson, Reviews in History
‘As Kay’s careful study of the London case demonstrates, the constraints on women’s public activity in the nineteenth century were not insurmountable. Drawing evidence from a range of sources, Kay uncovers the complexity of women’s entrepreneurial activities … Perhaps it is time to reopen the debate on what constitutes entrepreneurship; and whether a gender-neutral approach is possible and desirable.’
– Katrina Honeyman, Business History
‘Strikingly, Kay concludes that the story of women in business is neither a story of a lost golden age, nor one of emancipation, but a story of continuity across history … This book provides the best data yet on businesswomen in London.’
– Joyce Burnette, Eh.Net
‘This book would be of interest not only to those who want to have more knowledge of businesswomen’s history, but also to material culturists, economists, sociologists, and others who are interested in women and their work. It provides thoughtful insight into the interrelatedness of the sociocultural and economic environment of the early nineteenth century and women’s entrepreneurial businesses.’
– Judy K. Miler, Enterprise & Society