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A Gendered Enterprise: Placing Nineteenth-Century Businesswomen in History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 December 2011

Wendy Gamber
WENDY GAMBER is an assistant professor of history atIndiana University, Bloomington, and the Associate Editor of the Journal of American History.
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Readers who perused a 1904 issue of the Atlantic Monthly encountered an article with the intriguing title of “The Small Business as a School of Manhood.” Largely a diatribe against the growing dominance of large corporations, it lamented the presumably inevitable passing of smaller concerns. Curiously, its author, Henry A. Stimson, placed relatively little emphasis on the economic or even the political consequences of this development. Rather, he worried that the new order, which reduced would-be entrepreneurs to the status of corporate employees, represented “the loss of something fine in manhood.” Men who inhabited the newly-created ranks of middle and upper management might lead prosperous lives but faced the loss of their selfrespect, their dignity, their “intellectual stamina.” As Stimson saw it, they had been emasculated by the rise of the corporation.

Special Section: Gender and Business
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College 1998


1 Stimson, H. A., “The Small Business as a School of Manhood,” Atlantic Monthly 93 (1904): 337340Google Scholar. See Filene, Peter G., Him/Her/Self: Sex Roles in Modern America, 2nd ed. (Baltimore, 1986), 7278Google Scholar, and Kwolek-Folland, Angel, Engendering Business: Men and Women in the Corporate Office, 1870–1930 (Baltimore, 1994), 4555Google Scholar, for similar interpretations.

2 Kerber, Linda, “Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman's Place,” Journal of American History 75 (June 1988): 939CrossRefGoogle Scholar, offers a superb review of this concept and its applications by both contemporaries and subsequent historians.

3 For evidence of women's entrepreneurial activities, see Davis, Natalie Zemon, “Women in the Crafts in Sixteenth-Century Lyon,” Feminist Studies 8 (Spring 1982): 4680CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Clark, Alice, Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century (1919; reprint, New York, 1968)Google Scholar; Elizabeth Sanderson, “The Edinburgh Milliners, 1720–1820,” Costume (1986): 18–28; Dexter, Elisabeth Anthony, Career Women of America, 1776–1840 (1950; reprint, Clifton, N.J., 1972)Google Scholar; Clyde, and Griffen, Sally, Natives and Newcomers: The Ordering of Opportunity in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Poughkeepsie (Cambridge, Mass., 1978), 242247Google Scholar; Ryan, Mary P., Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790–1865 (Cambridge, 1981)Google Scholar; Lebsock, Suzanne, The Free Women of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784–1860 (New York, 1984)Google Scholar; Stansell, Christine, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789–1860 (New York, 1986), 1315Google Scholar; Goldin, Claudia, “The Economic Status of Women in the Early Republic: Quantitative Evidence,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 15 (Winter 1986): 375404CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hobson, Barbara Meil, Uneasy Virtue: The Politics of Prostitution and the American Reform Tradition (New York, 1987), 23, 3638Google Scholar; Murphy, Lucy Eldersveld, “Her Own Boss: Businesswomen and Separate Spheres in the Midwest, 1850–1880,” Illinois Historical Journal 80 (Autumn 1987): 155176Google Scholar; Murphy, , “Business Ladies: Midwestern Women and Enterprise, 1850–1880,” Journal of Women's History 3 (Spring 1991): 6589CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gamber, Wendy, The Female Economy: The Millinery and Dressmaking Trades, 1860–1930 (Urbana, Ill., 1997), esp. 2730Google Scholar; and John N. Ingham, “Patterns of African-American Female Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship in Ten Southern Cities, 1880–1930,” paper presented at the Tenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, June 1996, 1. Ingham discusses the “lady embalmer.”

4 Goldin, “Economic Status of Women,” esp. 402; Griffen and Griffen, Natives and Newcomers, 242; Ryan, Cradle of the Middle Class, 205.

5 Gamber, Female Economy.

6 Kwolek-Folland noted this in her comments at the panel, “Women, Race, and the History of Business in the U.S.,” Tenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, June 1996. See also Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business; and Harland, Marion, “The Incapacity of Business Women,” North American Review 149 (1889): 707712Google Scholar. Definitions of business compiled in The Oxford English Dictionary include “that in which one is engaged, or with which one is concerned,” “action which occupies time, demands attention and labour,” as well as “a commercial enterprise.” OED, 2nd ed., vol. II (Oxford, 1989), 694696Google Scholar.

7 Lerner, Gerda, “Placing Women in History: Definitions and Challenges,” Feminist Studies 3 (Fall 1975): 514CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 For analyses of the relations between business and masculinity, see Filene, Him/Her/Self, 72–78; Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business; Ditz, Toby L., “Shipwrecked; or, Masculinity Imperiled: Mercantile Representations of Failure and the Gendered Self in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia,” Journal of American History 81 (June 1994): 5180CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and forthcoming work by Philip Scranton and Pamela Laird.

9 For brief mentions of women in business, see Griffen and Griffen, Natives and Newcomers, 242–247; Ryan, Cradle of the Middle Class; Lebsock, Free Women of Petersburg; Hobson, Uneasy Virtue, 23, 36–38; and Stansell, City of Women, 13–15. The celebratory approach typifies what Lerner has called “compensatory history”; see Lerner, “Placing Women in History,” 5. For examples, see Dexter, Elisabeth A., Colonial Women of Affairs: A Study of Women in Business and the Professions in American Before 1776 (Boston, 1924)Google Scholar; and Career Women of America; Bird, Caroline, Enterprising Women (New York, 1976)Google Scholar; Clark, Sallye, “Carrie Taylor: Kentucky Dressmaker,” Dress 6 (1980): 1323CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jerde, Judith, “Mary Molloy: St. Paul's Extraordinary Dressmaker,” Dress 7 (1981): 8289CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Daily, Christie, “A Woman's Concern: Millinery in Central Iowa, 1870–1880Journal of the West 21 (1982): 2632Google Scholar.

10 Scholars concerned with writing the history of women in business may well find other subdisciplines more relevant to their research.

11 Exceptional cases can be illuminating. See Lynn Hudson's fascinating study of Pleasant, Mary Ellen, “When ‘Mammy’ Becomes a Millionaire: Mary Ellen Pleasant, an African American Entrepreneur” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, Bloomington, 1996)Google Scholar.

12 This tendency owes a great deal to the work of Chandler, Alfred D. Jr.; see esp. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, Mass., 1977)Google Scholar; and Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism (Cambridge, Mass., 1990)Google Scholar.

13 Bruchey, Stuart W., ed., Small Business in American Life (New York, 1980)Google Scholar; Blackford, Mansel G., “Small Business in America: A Historiographic Survey,” Business History Review 65 (1991): 126CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Blackford, , A History of Small Business in America (New York, 1991)Google Scholar; Scranton, Philip, “Diversity in Diversity: Flexible Production and American Industrialization, 1880–1930,” Business History Review 65 (1991): 2790CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Endless Novelty: Specialty Production and American Industrialization, 1865–1925 (Princeton, N.J., 1997Google Scholar); Harris, Howell John, “Getting it Together: The Metal Manufacturers' Association of Philadelphia, c. 1900–1930,” in Jacoby, Sanford M., ed., Masters to Managers: Historical and Comparative Perspectives on American Employers (New York, 1991), 111131Google Scholar; Walter Licht, “Studying Work: Personnel Policies in Philadelphia Firms, 1850–1950,” in Jacoby, ed., Masters to Managers; Nenadic, Stana, Morris, R. J., Smyth, James, and Rainger, Chris, “Record Linkage and the Small Family Firm: Edinburgh 1861–1891,” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 74 (Autumn 1992): 169195CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14 For analyses of businesswomen's assets, see Murphy, “Business Ladies,” esp. 72, 74–77; Griffen and Griffen, Natives and Newcomers, 124, 243–245; Gamber, Female Economy, 36–37, 244–245, n.22. Griffen and Griffen found that 61 percent of female entrepreneurs in mid-nineteenth-century Poughkeepsie, New York, headed firms valued at $1,000 or less; this was true of only 35 percent of male grocers and fancy goods dealers. The property holdings of female dressmakers and milliners in Boston in 1860 $284, those of their male counterparts, $6,000.

15 Eatwell, John, Milgate, Murray, and Newman, Peter, eds., The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, vol. 2 (London, 1987), 357CrossRefGoogle Scholar. I find Margaret Levenstein's definition of an entrepreneur “as one who runs his or her own business” helpful; see African American Entrepreneurship: The View from the 1910 Census,” Business and Economic History 24 (Fall 1995): 106122Google Scholar. See also Benson, John, The Penny Capitalists: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Working-Class Entrepreneurs (Dublin, 1983), 5Google Scholar. See Lori D. Ginzbereg's discussion of the business-like activities of female philanthropists in Women and the Work of Benevolence: Morality, Politics, and Class in the Nineteenth-Century United States (New Haven, Conn., 1990), 3666Google Scholar.

16 Claudia Goldin found that 67 percent of hucksters in Philadelphia in 1860 were women; see “Economic Status of Women,” 402. For the British case, see Benson, Penny Capitalists.

17 John Ingham's recent work offers a useful critique of this view; see his “Patterns of African-American Female Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship,” and “Pride, Prejudice, and Protest: African American Business in the South, 1880–1933,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, Jan. 1996.

18 Lipartito, Kenneth, “Culture and the Practice of Business History,” Business and Economic History 24 (Winter 1995): 140Google Scholar, quotations, 2.

19 Louis Galambos's assertion that “major transitions were products of economic and political forces, not prior or simultaneous cultural changes” seems to me an example of this kind of thinking; I would argue that it is impossible to separate the economic and the political from the cultural. Galambos, , “What Makes Us Think We Can Put Business Back Into American History?Business and Economic History 20 (1991): 9Google Scholar. See Mary Yeager, “Women in Business: A Historiographical Journey,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Business History Conference, 1994, 14–16, for a superb analysis of this issue.

20 I do not mean to imply that labor history as a field has successfully incorporated either women wage-earners or gender as a tool of analysis; on these points, see Baron, Ava, “Gender and Labor History: Learning From the Past, Looking to the Future,” in Baron, , ed., Work Engendered: Toward a New History of American Labor (Ithaca, N.Y., 1991), 146Google Scholar; and Scott, Joan Wallach, “On Language, Gender, and Working-Class History” and “Women in The Making of the English Working Class,” in Gender and the Politics of History (New York, 1988), 5390Google Scholar.

21 Faler, Paul, Mechanics and Manufacturers in the Early Industrial Revolution: Lynn, Massachusetts, 1780–1860 (Albany, N.Y., 1981)Google Scholar; Dawley, Alan, Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn (Cambridge, Mass., 1976)Google Scholar; Laurie, Bruce, Working People of Philadelphia, 1800–1850 (Philadelphia, 1980), esp. 114Google Scholar; Wilentz, Sean, Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788–1850 (New York, 1984), esp. 2748Google Scholar; Stott, Richard B., Workers in the Metropolis: Class, Ethnicity, and Youth in Antebellum New York City (Ithaca, N.Y., 1990), 3458Google Scholar.

22 Rosenzweig, Roy, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870–1920 (Cambridge, U.K., 1983), 4853Google Scholar, quotation, 48; Blumin, Stuart M., The Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City, 1760–1900 (Cambridge, U.K., 1989), 133134Google Scholar.

23 Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will, 53.

24 “What is a Grocer, Papa?” in Artemus Ward, comp., The Grocers' Hand-Book and Directory for 1883 (Philadelphia, 1882), 304Google Scholar.

25 Milliners and dressmakers accounted for 42 percent of all female entrepreneurs in late-nineteenth-century Boston; Murphy's figures indicate that they made up 61 percent of Midwestern women proprietors in 1870. See Gamber, Female Economy, 28, 30; Murphy, “Business Ladies,” 66 (Table 1). For discussions of dressmakers' and milliners' social origins, see Female Economy, 32–35, 64–68. For descriptions of urban shopping districts and their social identities, see Howells, William Dean, A Woman's Reason (Boston, 1883), 185, 376Google Scholar; King, Moses, King's How-To-See Boston (Boston, 1895), 99Google Scholar; Blumin, Emergence of the Middle Class, 86; Perry, Lorinda, The Millinery Trade in Boston and Philadelphia: A Study of Women in Industry (Binghamton, N.Y., 1916), 2728Google Scholar; and Van Kleeck, Mary, A Seasonal Industry: A Study of the Millinery Trade in New York (New York, 1917), 35–37, 108109Google Scholar.

26 Steedman, Carolyn, Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives (New Brunswick, N.J., 1987), 69Google Scholar.

27 Parton, Mary Field, ed., The Autobiography of Mother Jones, 3rd. ed. (Chicago, 1976), 1113Google Scholar.

28 Gamber, Female Economy, 96–124, esp. 103–108; Thompson, E. P., The Making of the English Working Class (New York, 1964), esp. 911Google Scholar; Canning, Kathleen, “Gender and the Politics of Class Formation: Rethinking German Labor History,” American Historical Review 97 (June 1992): 736768CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Walkowitz, Daniel J., “The Making of a Feminine Professional Identity: Social Workers in the 1920s,” American Historical Review 95 (Oct. 1990): 10511075CrossRefGoogle Scholar. I also found Walkowitz's presentation at 1996 meeting of the Social Science History Association helpful for thinking about the issue of class. Nancy Hewitt's concept of “multiplicity” is also useful for thinking about multiple identities; see Compounding Differences,” Feminist Studies 18 (Summer 1992): esp. 319324Google Scholar.

29 Dexter, Colonial Women of Affairs; see Norton, Mary Beth, “The Evolution of White Women's Experience in Early America,” American Historical Review 89 (June 1984): 593594CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Goldin, “Economic Status of Women in the Early Republic”; and Brown, Kathleen M., “Brave New Worlds: Women's and Gender History,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d series, L (Apr. 1993): 311328CrossRefGoogle Scholar for discussions and critiques of the golden age hypothesis.

30 I do not mean to imply that the feminist movement of the late 1960s and 1970s was homogeneous or monolithic; see Echols, Alice, Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967–1975 (Minneapolis, 1989)Google Scholar; Yeager, “Women in Business,” 17–18, 35–38.

31 Yeager, “Women in Business”; for the best review of women's labor history, see Baron, “Gender and Labor History,” 1–46.

32 Welter, Barbara, “The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820–1860,” American Quarterly 18 (1966): 151–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Lerner, Gerda, “The Lady and the Mill Girl: Changes in the Status of Women in the Age of Jackson, 1800–1840,” in Cott, Nancy F. and Pleck, Elizabeth H., A Heritage of Her Own: Toward a New Social History of American Women (New York, 1979), 182196Google Scholar; Cott, Nancy F., The Bonds of Womanhood: “Woman's Sphere” in New England, 1780–1835 (New Haven, Conn., 1977)Google Scholar.

33 Kerber, , “Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman's Place”; Boydston, Jeanne, Home and Work: Household, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic (New York, 1990), 144Google Scholar.

34 The concept of women's culture owes a great deal to Carroll Smith-Rosenberg's very influential The Female World of Love and Ritual,” Signs 1 (1975): 129CrossRefGoogle Scholar, reprint, in Smith-Rosenberg, , Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York, 1985), 5376Google Scholar, quotations, 63; see also Cott, Bonds of Womanhood. On cultural feminism, see Echols, Daring to Be Bad, 243–256, 269–281. “Feminist businesses,” as Echols points out, were a by-product of cultural feminism; see 272–281.

35 DuBois, Ellen, Buhle, Mari Jo, Kaplan, Temma, Lerner, Gerda, and Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll, “Politics and Culture in Women's History: A Symposium;Feminist Studies 6 (Spring 1980): 2664CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hewitt, Nancy, “Beyond the Search for Sisterhood,” Social History 10 (Oct. 1985): 299321CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 Murphy, “Her Own Boss,” esp. 174, 176; Formanek-Brunell, Miriam, Made to Play House: Dolls and the Commercialization of American Girlhood, 1830–1930 (New Haven, Conn., 1993), 2–5, 6189Google Scholar. Patricia Cleary offers somewhat similar but more nuanced and less romantic views for the eighteenth century. See “‘She Will Be in the Shop’: Women's Sphere of Trade in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia and New York,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography CXIX (July 1995): 181202Google Scholar; and Cleary, , “‘She-Merchants’ of Colonial America: Women and Commerce on the Eve of the Revolution” (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1989)Google Scholar.

37 Goldin's “Economic Status of Women in the Early Republic,” devotes itself to dismantling the golden age theory, but by this time, few historians were willing to give the notion their unqualified support. Work in progress by Susan Ingalls Lewis and John Ingham suggests new and promising ways of conceptualizing the history of women in business. Susan Ingalls Lewis, “Female Entrepreneurs, Artisans, and Workers: Milliners in Albany, 1840–1885,” paper presented at the North American Labor History Conference, Oct. 1990; Beyond Horatia Alger: Breaking Through Gendered Assumptions about Business ‘Success’ in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America,” Business and Economic History 24 (Fall 1995): 97105Google Scholar; and Female Entrepreneurs in Albany, 1840–1885,” Business and Economic History, 2nd series, 22 (1992): 6573Google Scholar; Ingham, “Patterns of African-American Female Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship.”

38 Gamber, Female Economy, 83–88; David Brody, “Labor and Small-Scale Enterprise During Industrialization,” in Bruchey, ed., Small Business in American Life, 263–279.

39 Murphy's more recent work tries to balance businesswomen's economic imperatives with an interpretation premised on the notion of women's culture; see “Business Ladies,” 65–89; Faye Dudden's discussion of the analogies between relations between mistresses and domestic service and between industrial employers and employees provides a useful model; see Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America (Hanover, N.H., 1983), 155183Google Scholar.

40 Scott, Joan, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” American Historical Review 91 (1986): 10531075CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Scott, “Introduction” in Gender and the Politics of History, 1–11; Nicholson, Linda, “Interpreting Gender,” Signs 20 (Autumn 1994): 79105CrossRefGoogle Scholar, quotation, 79; see also Brown, “Brave New Worlds,” 311–328.

41 By “Victorian,” I mean a nineteenth-century middle-class conception of gender relations that depended on a series of rigid dichotomies, distinguishing “male” from “female,” “public” from “private,” “respectable” women from “disreputable” women. On the important of particular contexts, see Nicholson, “Interpreting Gender,” 83–88; and Brown, “Brave New Worlds,” 316–328.

42 Kessler-Harris's, Alice, Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States (New York, 1982)Google Scholar remains the best overview of sex segregated labor markets in the United States. Boston Directory (Boston, 1876)Google Scholar; see analysis in Gamber, Female Economy, 27–30; Murphy, “Her Own Boss,” esp. 174–176; Murphy, “Business Ladies,” esp. 67–68.

43 Murphy, “Business Ladies,” 67.

44 For analyses of women wage-earners, see Kessler-Harris, Out to Work; Melosh, Barbara, “The Physician's Hand”: Work Culture and Conflict in American Nursing (Philadelphia, 1982)Google Scholar; Benson, Susan Porter, Counter Cultures: Saleswomen, Managers, and Customers in American Department Stores, 1890–1940 (Urbana, Ill., 1986)Google Scholar; Cooper, Patricia, Once a Cigar Maker: Men, Women, and Work Culture in American Cigar Factories, 1900–1919 (Urbana, Ill., 1987)Google Scholar; Blewett, Mary H., Men, Women, and Work: Class, Gender, and Protest in the New England Shoe Industry, 1780–1910 (Urbana, Ill., 1988)Google Scholar; Bradley, Harriet, Men's Work, Women's Work: A Sociological History of the Sexual Division of Labour in Employment (Minneapolis, 1989)Google Scholar; DeVault, Ileen A., Sons and Daughters of Labor: Class and Clerical Work in Turn-of-the-Century Pittsburgh (Ithaca, N.Y., 1990)Google Scholar; Glenn, Susan A., Daughters of the Shtetl: Life and Labor in the Immigrant Generation (Ithaca, N.Y., 1990)Google Scholar; Baron, ed., Work Engendered; Turbin, , Working Women of Collar City: Gender, Class, and Community in Troy, 1864–86 (Urbana, Ill., 1992)Google Scholar; Cameron, Ardis, Radicals of the Worst Sort: Laboring Women in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1860–1912 (Urbana, Ill., 1993)Google Scholar; Dublin, Thomas, Transforming Women's Work: New England Lives in the Industrial Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y., 1994)Google Scholar; Kemp, Alice Abel, Women's Work: Degraded and Devalued (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1994)Google Scholar; and Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business.

45 See Sanford M. Jacoby, “Masters to Managers: An Introduction,” in Jacoby, ed., Masters to Managers, 1–15, esp. 2–8.

46 For analyses that document the gender biases hidden beneath definitions of “skilled” and “unskilled” labor, see Benson, Counter Cultures, 229; McGaw, Judith A., “No Passive Victims, No Separate Spheres: A Feminist Perspective on Technology's History,” in Cutcliffe, Stephen H. and Post, Robert C., eds., In Context: History and the History of Technology (Bethlehem, Pa., 1989), 78184Google Scholar; Phillips, Anne and Taylor, Barbara, “Sex and Skill: Notes towards a Feminist Economics,” Feminist Review 6 (1981): 7988CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Joan Wallach Scott, “Work Identities for Men and Women: The Politics of Work and Family in the Parisian Garment Trades in 1848,” in Gender and the Politics of History, 93–112.

47 Clark, Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century, 195, 234; Clark, Fiona, Hats (London, 1982)Google Scholar; Kidwell, Claudia B., Cutting a Fashionable Fit: Dressmakers' Drafting Systems in the United States (Washington, D.C., 1979), 3–4, 1113Google Scholar; Coffin, Judith G., “Woman's Place and Women's Work in the Paris Clothing Trades, 1830–1914” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1985), 2843Google Scholar; and The Politics of Women's Work: The Paris Garment Trades, 1750–1915 (Princeton, N.J., 1996)Google Scholar; Steele, Valerie, Fashion and Eroticism: Ideals of Feminine Beauty from the Victorian Era to the Jazz Age (New York, 1985)Google Scholar. See Roscoe Conkling's comments on reformers, quoted in Keller, Morton, Affairs of State: Public Life in Late Nineteenth Century America (Cambridge, Mass., 1977), 248CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48 Simon, Amy, “‘She is So Neat and Fits So Well’: Garment Construction and the Millinery Business of Eliza Oliver Dodds, 1821–1833” (M.A. thesis, University of Delaware, 1993), 73Google Scholar; Gamber, Female Economy, 129–134, 178–182.

49 See, for example, Ingraham, J. H., Grace Weldon, Or, Frederica, The Bonnet-Girl: A Tale of Boston and Its Bay (Boston, 1845)Google Scholar; Sedge, Emeret H., “Grace Ellerslie,” Peterson's Magazine 34 (Sept. 1858): 167, 172Google Scholar; Ingraham, J. H., “The Milliner's Apprentice; Or, The False Teeth. A Story that Hath More Truth than Fiction in It,” Godey's 22 (Jan. 1841): 194, 201–202, 205206Google Scholar; Neal, Alice B., “The Milliner's Dream; Or, The Wedding-Bonnet,” Godey's 52 (July 1855): 3031Google Scholar; Howells, A Woman's Reason; and Wharton, Edith, The House of Mirth (1905; reprint, New York, 1986), 271285Google Scholar. See Gilman, Amy, “‘Cogs to the Wheels’: The Ideology of Women's Work in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Fiction,” Science and Society 47 (1983): 178204Google Scholar, esp. 185, for a perceptive analysis of such portraits.

50 This conclusion reflects the urban Northeastern and Midwestern focus of my research; African-American women practiced the two trades in the South. Gamber, Female Economy, 33–35, 61–64; Ingham, “Patterns of African-American Female Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship.”

51 Ava Baron's fine work provides a useful model. See “Contested Terrain Revisited: Technology and Gender Definitions of Work in the Printing Industry, 1850–1920,” in Wright, Barbara Drygulski et al. , eds., Women, Work, and Technology: Transformations (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1987), 5883Google Scholar; and “An ‘Other’ Side of Gender Antagonism at Work: Men, Boys, and the Remasculinization of Printers' Work, 1830–1920,” in Baron, ed., Work Engendered, 47–69; see the other essays in this collection as well.

52 Kidwell, Cutting a Fashionable Fit, 93–94; Penny, Virginia, The Employments of Women: A Cyclopedia of Woman's Work (Boston, 1863), 317318Google Scholar; and Penny, , Think and Act: A Series of Articles Pertaining to Men and Women, Work and Wages (1869; reprint, New York, 1971), 290Google Scholar; Illustrated Milliner 1 (Aug. 1900): 79Google Scholar.

53 Fernandez, Nancy Page, “‘If a Woman Had Taste’: Home Sewing and the Making of Fashion, 1850–1910” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Irvine, 1987), 103–5Google Scholar; and Fernandez, “Women, Work and Wages in the Industrialization of American Dressmaking, 1860–1910,” paper presented at the Ninth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, June 1993, 8–10.

54 Keller, Evelyn Fox, Reflections on Gender and Science (New Haven, Conn., 1985), esp. 7–13, 33–65, 7594Google Scholar.

55 Hecklinger, Charles, The Dress and Cloak Cutter. In Two Parts. (New York, 1883)Google Scholar, preface; The McDowell Standard System, of Garment Cutting (New York, [1886?]), 2Google Scholar; see also Griffin, Caleb H. and Knox, David, The Science and Art of Cutting and Making Ladies' Garments, As Demonstrated by Griffin & Knox's Great American Draughting Machine (Lynn, Mass., 1873), 6Google Scholar.

56 The best discussions of “conventional” deskilling are Braverman, Harry, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (New York, 1974)Google Scholar; and Montgomery, David, Workers' Control in America: Studies in the History of Work, Technology, and Labor Struggle (Cambridge, 1979)Google Scholar. See Glenn, Daughters of the Shtetl, 102, for a critique of the masculinist bias of this literature.

57 See Moeckel, Bill Reid, The Development of the Wholesaler in the United States 1860–1900 (New York, 1986)Google Scholar; and Porter, Glenn and Livesay, Harold C., Merchants and Manufacturers: Studies in the Changing Structure of Nineteenth-Century Marketing (Baltimore, 1971)Google Scholar for general histories of wholesaling.

58 At least 10/222 of the proprietors of Boston dressmaking and millinery shops in 1860 and 18/325 in 1890 were men. The Boston Directory (Boston, 1860)Google Scholar; and Boston Directory (Boston, 1890)Google Scholar. I found no female wholesalers in nineteenth-century Boston directories; the R. G. Dun & Co. records refer to one, Harriet Lowell; see Massachusetts vol. 68, 44; and vol. 75, 283, 287, R. G. Dun & Co. Collection, Baker Library, Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, Boston, Mass, (hereafter cited as RGD).

59 Penny, Think and Act, 25; Milliner 26 (Feb. 1915): 81Google Scholar; and 25 (Dec. 1914): 42. I have been unable to locate similar descriptions for the nineteenth century, primarily because trade journals that documented wholesalers' activities were creations of the twentieth century.

60 See Ditz, “Shipwrecked.”

61 Barger, Harold, Distribution's Place in the American Economy since 1869 (Princeton, N.J., 1955)Google Scholar.

62 Philo [pseud.], Twelve Letters to a Young Milliner (New York, 1883), 56Google Scholar.

63 Earling, P. R., Whom to Trust: A Practical Treatise on Mercantile Credits (Chicago and New York, 1890), 151Google Scholar; Gamber, Female Economy, 163–165.

64 Madison, James H., “The Credit Reports of R. G. Dun & Co. as Historical Sources,” Historical Methods Newsletter 8 (1975): 28131CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Madison, , “The Evolution of Commercial Credit Reporting Agencies in Nineteenth-Century America,” Business History Review 48 (1974): 164186CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Gamber, Female Economy, 162.

65 I examined all Dun & Co. reports for male milliners in Boston as well as those for a small sample of tailors (see Gamber, Female Economy, 257, n. 70, 263, n. 13). In sharp contrast to the regularity with which this adjective was applied to female proprietors, the partners of only one firm were described as “respectable.”

66 See, for example, Foster, George C., New York by Gas-Light: With Here and There a Streak of Sunshine (New York, 1850), 66Google Scholar; Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 7 (Feb. 12, 1859): 160Google Scholar; Lewis, “Female Entrepreneurs, Artisans, and Workers,” 16.

67 Female dependency was an important cultural ideal for both the middle and working classes; on the working-class notion of the family wage, see May, Martha, “Bread Before Roses: American Workingmen, Labor Unions, and the Family Wage,” in Milkman, Ruth, ed., Women, Work, and Protest: A Century of US Women's Labor History (Boston, 1985), 121Google Scholar; and Kessler-Harris, Alice, A Woman's Wage: Historical Meanings and Social Consequences (Lexington, Ky., 1990), esp. 8–12, 1920Google Scholar.

68 Mass. vol. 75: 91; vol. 73: 78; vol. 75: 411; vol. 67: 216 a/4, RGD. After the Civil War, Dun & Co. reporters increasingly favored economic considerations over those based on moral character. But character remained an important basis for credit; see Norris, James D., R. G. Dun & Co., 1841–1900: The Development of Credit-Reporting in the Nineteenth Century (Westport, Conn., 1978), xvii, 93–94, 130Google Scholar. See, for example, the credit reports of Martha J. Davis and Mary McManus (Mass. vol. 72: 456; vol. 75: 256; vol. 84: 197; vol. 78: 318, 156, RGD).

69 Philo, Twelve Letters to a Young Milliner, 14–15; see also 35, 46; Illustrated Milliner 4 (Apr. 1900): 70Google Scholar.

70 Earling, Whom to Trust, 58, 64, 149–150; Mass. vol. 70: 898, RGD.

71 Earling, Whom to Trust, 58, 64; Philo, Twelve Letters to a Young Milliner, 5–6; Dry Goods Merchants Trade Journal 22 (Nov. 1921): 60Google Scholar; and 23 (Dec. 1921): 17; Stimson, “Small Business as a School of Manhood,” 337–340; Illustrated Milliner 4 (May 1903): 46Google Scholar: and 4 (July 1903): 43; Kessler-Harris, Alice, “Independence and Virtue in the Lives of Wage-Earning Women: The United States, 1870–1930,” in Friedlander, Judith, Cook, Blanche Wiesen, Kessler-Harris, Alice, and Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll, eds., Women in Culture and Politics: A Century of Change (Bloomington, Ind., 1986), 317Google Scholar.

72 Mass. vol. 70: 699, 857, RGD; see also the reports on Mehitable Sampson and Maria and Catherine Roeth (Mass. vol. 75: 131; and vol. 67: 216a/9, RGD).

73 Gamber, Female Economy, 36–37, 166–167.

74 Ibid., 160–161.

75 Ibid., 170–176.

76 See Kessler-Harris, Alice, “Ideologies and Innovation: Gender Dimensions of Business History,” Business and Economic History 20 (1991): 46Google Scholar.

77 Lipartito, “Culture and the Practice of Business History,” 33.

78 Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business; Ditz, “Shipwrecked.”

79 See Wilentz, Chants Democratic, 105–142, for the notion of “bastard” workshops, that is, those in which traditional craft practices had been diluted by divisions of labor. Interestingly, the term itself has gendered implications.