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400 Years Of Freethought
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Unexceptional Women: Female Proprietors in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Albany, New York, 1830-1885 (HISTORICAL PERSP BUS ENTERPRIS)

Unexceptional Women: Female Proprietors in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Albany, New York, 1830�1885 - Susan Ingalls Lewis Lewis deals with female proprietors in mid-19th century Albany between the years 1830 in 1885. Although this doesn’t bear directly on the rural industry I’m looking at, I think she makes some really good points about defining entrepreneurship and about the intersecting spheres of activity and women participated in, which I think are equally valid for talking about rural entrepreneurship. “Most of the more than 2000 individual female proprietors operating in Albany between 1830 and 1885 were involved in modest endeavors that appear to have been strategies for economic survival and means of self-employment rather than business ventures inspired by an entrepreneurial spirit.” The same could be said about a lot of rural entrepreneurs, who were doing business to earn a living rather than because they wanted to be members of an entrepreneurial class. Entrepreneurship, Lewis says, “is a term strongly associated with the most prominent 19th-century businessman,” and clearly not the women (or farmers). (120)“Putting small business at the center: It is clear that the study of businesswomen is currently poised on the brink of making an important contribution to the field of women’s history. But can it make an equally important contribution to the study of business history?… What difference can the inclusion of women make to business history field? When considering how to fit women into business history, it will clearly not be enough to simply locate their activities at the edges of traditional narratives, nor to just insert a few outstanding female examples into their rightful places. Instead, I would like to experiment with turning our conception of 19th-century business history inside out.” (158) “Intersecting spheres: Moving from economic and business to women’s history, based on evidence about Albany’s female proprietors, it is clear that the so-called ‘separate spheres’ dear to the hearts of Victorian moralists and an earlier generation of women’s historians have little relevance to the lives of businesswomen, especially the majority who came from working-class or immigrant backgrounds...Rather than having a sex segregated, cloistered world, most of Albany’s businesswoman regularly interacted with the male world… most of these women were also very closely tied to their families, neighborhoods, and local business networks, in which they provided a vital link.” (159)