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Women in the Service Industries: National Perspectives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 December 2011

Angel Kwolek-Folland
ANGEL KWOLEK-FOLLAND is professor of history and women's studies and Interim Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Florida.
Margaret Walsh
MARGARET WALSH is professor of American economic and social history at the University of Nottingham.


The purpose of this special issue is to explore the relationship of gender in several national contexts to the service industriesbusinesses that provide benefit to others or produce items or infrastructure that support others. Several questions have guided our overall purpose. What do we learn about business history generally, and the service sector specifically, by taking gender into account? Is what we learn the same in different national contexts? If not, why not? We hope that the answers suggested in the essays will stimulate dialogue on both national case studies and comparative themes and will illuminate transnational patterns and perspectives in the history of women, gender, and business.

Copyright The President and Fellows of Harvard College 2007

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1 The historiographical essay by Margaret Walsh on transportation services was not originally presented in Barcelona and is new for this issue.

2 The U.S. economic census, beginning in the nineteenth century, devised economic categories for various industries. These sectoral divisions have expanded over time as new types of economic activity have developed. The primary sector is made up of economic activities that convert natural resources into products (i.e., agriculture, fishing, forestry, mining); the secondary sector contains manufacturing (i.e., the automobile, chemical, and steel industries); the tertiary sector covers the provision of services, including information and transportation, to other businesses or consumers. Some economists have argued for a fourth, quaternary, sector that would encompass research, development, and various information services; however, these areas also belong in the tertiary sector. See, for example, Boettcher, Jennifer C. and Gaines, Leonard M., Industry Research Using the Economic Census (Westport, Conn., 2004);Google Scholar and Cameron, Rondo E., A Concise Economic History of the World: From Paleolithic Times to the Present (New York, 2003).Google Scholar Some recent works on service industries include Harlaftis, Gelina, Greek Shipowners and Greece, 1945-1975 (London, 1994);Google ScholarLaird, Pamela, Advertising Progress: American Business and the Rise of Consumer Marketing (Baltimore, Md., 1998);Google ScholarOlegario, Rowena, A Culture of Credit: Embedding Trust and Transparency in American Business (Cambridge, Mass., 2006);CrossRefGoogle ScholarMcKenna, Christopher D., The World's Newest Profession: Management Consulting in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, U.K., 2006);CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Levinson, Marc, The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (Princeton, 2006).Google Scholar

3 Rosenberg, Rosalind, Divided Lives: American Women in the Twentieth Century (New York, 1992),Google Scholar ch. l. See also Kwolek-Folland, Angel, Incorporating Women: A History of Women and Business in the United States (New York, 2002), 8.Google Scholar

4 Curli, Barbara, Women Entrepreneurs and Italian Industrialization: Conjectures and Avenues for Research, Enterprise & Society 3 (Dec. 2002): 63456;CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMedCraig, Batrice, Petites Bourgeoises and Penny Capitalists: Women in Retail in the Lille Area during the Nineteenth Century, Enterprise & Society 2 (June 2001): 198224.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed See also, Colli, Andrea, The History of Family Business, 18502000 (New York, 2003);Google ScholarColli, Andrea, Prez, Paloma Fernndez, and Rose, Mary B., National Determinants of Family Firm Development? Family Firms in Britain, Spain, and Italy in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Enterprise & Society 4 (2003): 28-64;CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Rose, Mary B., The Family Firm in British Business, 1780-1914, in Business Enterprise in Modern Britain, eds. Kirby, Maurice W. and Rose, Mary B. (London, 1994), 6187.Google Scholar

5 On the connections among bourgeois liberalism, market capitalism, and the political economy of the public sphere, see Habermas, Jrgen, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass., 1989);Google ScholarCalhoun, Craig, ed., Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, Mass., 1992);Google ScholarBoydston, Jeanne, Home and Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic (New York, 1990);Google Scholar and Freedman, Estelle B., No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women (New York, 2002).Google Scholar

6 Fraser, Nancy, What's Critical about Critical Theory? The Case of Habermas and Gender, New German Criticism 35 (SpringSummer 1985): 107.Google Scholar

7 On gender and economics, see Barker, Drucilla, Toward a Feminist Philosophy of Economics (London, 2003);Google ScholarDimand, Mary Ann, Dimand, Robert W., and Forget, Evelyn L., eds., Women of Value: Feminist Essays on the History of Women in Economics (Aldershot, U.K., 1995);Google ScholarHewitson, Gillian J., Feminist Economics: Interrogating the Masculinity of Rational Economic Man (Cheltham, U.K., 1999);Google ScholarJacobsen, Joyce P., The Economics of Gender (Cambridge, 1994);Google ScholarPeterson, Janice and Lewis, Margaret, eds., The Elgar Companion to Feminist Economics (Cheltenham, U.K., 1999);CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Pujol, Michele A., Feminism and Anti-Feminism in Early Economic Thought (Aldershot, U.K., 1992).Google Scholar

8 Fraser, What's Critical, 107. On public space and gender, see Rose, Gillian, Feminism and Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge (Minneapolis, 1993);Google ScholarMeyerowitz, Joanne, Sexual Geography and Gender Economy: The Furnished Room Districts of Chicago, 1890-1930, Gender & History 2 (Autumn 1990): 27496;CrossRefGoogle ScholarHayden, Dolores, The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History (Cambridge, 1996);Google Scholar and Lemire, Beverly, The Business of Everyday Life: Practice and Social Politics in England, c.1600-1900 (Manchester, U.K., 2005).Google Scholar

9 Smith, Bonnie, The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice (Cambridge, Mass., 1998);Google Scholar and Yeager, Mary A., Mavericks and Mavens of Business History: Miriam Beard and Henrietta Larson, Enterprise & Society 2 (Dec. 2001): 687768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar See also Jardins, Julie Des, Women and the Historical Enterprise in America: Gender, Race and the Politics of Memory, 1880-1945 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2003).Google Scholar

10 Goldin, Claudia, Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women (New York, 1990);Google ScholarMatthaei, Julie, An Economic History of Women in America: Women's Work, the Sexual Division of Labor, and the Development of Capitalism (New York, 1982).Google Scholar The only aspect of the classic tertiary sector in which women have not been active players is the public utility industry, which is a special case because of the massive infrastructure necessary for its maintenance. See, however, Clendenning, Anne, Demons of Domesticity: Women and the English Gas Industry, 1889-1939 (Aldershot, U.K., 2004);Google Scholar and Rose, Mark, Cities of Light and Heat: Domesticating Gas and Electricity in Urban America (University Park, Md., 1995).Google Scholar

11 Jensen, Joan, Loosening the Bonds: Mid-Atlantic Farm Women, 1750-1850 (New Haven, Conn., 1986), ch. 6;Google ScholarKwolek-Folland, Angel, Engendering Business: Men and Women in the Corporate Office, 18701930 (Baltimore, 1994);Google ScholarLeidner, Robin, Serving Hamburgers and Selling Insurance: Gender, Work, and Identity in Interactive Service Jobs, Gender and Society 5 (June 1991): 15477;CrossRefGoogle ScholarOldenziel, Ruth, Making Technology Masculine: Men, Women and Modern Machines in America, 1790-1945 (Amsterdam, 1999);Google ScholarStrom, Sharon, Beyond the Typewriter: Gender, Class and the Origins of Modern Office Work, 1900-1930 (Urbana, Ill., 1992);Google ScholarMcMurray, Sally, Transforming Rural Life: Dairying Families and Agricultural Change, 1820-1885 (Baltimore, 1995).Google Scholar

12 Women's wage employment in non-agricultural sector as percentage of total non-agricultural employees, United Nations Statistics Division, Millennium Indicators. Accessed at http:unstats.un.orgunsdmi, 29 Jan. 2005.

13, accessed 29 Jan. 2005.

14 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, tables 2, 32. Accessed at http:www.bls.govcps, 1 Aug. 2004.

15 For the United States, see reports by the National Foundation of Women Business Owners, at, accessed 1 Aug. 2004. On Europe, see United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Access to Financing and ITC for Women Entrepreneurs in the UNECE Region: Challenges and Good Practices (Geneva, 2004). Numerous national and international organizations address women's business participation. See, for example, the Alliance of Business Women International ( and the Center for International Private Enterprise (