Women's occupations since the Renaissance

{See also Professions}     {See also Female sailors}      {See also Employees 1800s}

Women business owners in the nineteenth century

There were thousands of women business owners in the nineteeth century. They owned service, retail, manufacturing and agricultural businesses. In some cases they were sole traders, often working from home. In a great many cases they employed one or two hands, or an apprentice or two. Some employed 20, 50 and more. Here are some businesses owned by women, gleaned from the 1881 census:

  • hotels, inns, tavens, public houses
  • farms
  • breweries
  • retail shops including confectioners, drapers, tobacconists, booksellers
  • private libraries
  • merchants of coal, corn, potatoes
  • theatres (as lessee or proprietor)
  • manufacturers (see below)

Women were manufacturers of clothing, carpets, headwear, footwear, stays, slate, sausages, agricultural machinery, accessories, bricks, pills, harnesses, saddles, trimmings, mineral water, hammers, bridle bits, brushes, paper, lace, cork, cattle feed, tiles, lace, padlocks, embrocation, cigars, baby linen, parasols, silk, lint, tambours, tarpaulin, sweets, cakes, chairs, augurs, soda water, dials, tobacco, gimp, clogs, regalia, scales, oilcloth, pipes, sauce, biscuits, ginger beer, lozenges, cotton wool, rope, hair, iron goods (uncluding fire-irons, nails and files), toys, twine, woollens, spoons and forks, electro-plate items, awl blades, axle trees, hatbands, musical instruments, gold watch cases, glass, spectacles, cotton, tobacco, music stools, herb beer, candles, machinery (including beer engines), watches, silver ware, jewellery, thimbles, whiting (?), halter heads (?) ...

Self-employed artisansdressmaker, milliner, staymaker, bird stuffer (i.e. taxidermists) ...

Self employed in the arts and literatureeditor, editress, journalist, photographer, colourist, artist, artists' model, sculptress, street musician, singer, dancer, minstrel ...

Self-employed dealers in potatoes, birds...

Self-employed women in education'professor' of dancing, music, languages. Owners of creches, private mixed sex elementary schools, young ladies' seminaries, ladies' colleges...

Self-employed women in health servicesphysician, monthly nurse, wet nurse, sick nurse, 'doctoress' or 'doctress' (i.e. herbalist, ointment maker), rubber (i.e. masseur), ...

Annie Kingsford, married, 33, "Physician M.D. Paris" 11 Chapel Street, Mayfair.
Jane Stanley, married, 47, "horse and cattle doctoress" Silver Street, Thorne, Yorks.

Self-employed small business owners music publisher, newspaper or magazine proprietor, hawker, fortune teller, "seer, spiritualist medium"...

Thursia Jefferys, 72, music publisher, living at 5 Upper Montague St, Bloomsbury.
Eliza M Pike, 44, newspaper proprietor and editor, 26 Osmaston Road, Derby.

Some women business owners with employees

Rachel Yates, 50, was a carpet manufacturer employing 230 men, women and half timers at the carpet factory, Wilton, Wiltshire.

Catherine Warburton, 68, cotton manufacturer employing 160 hands. Flashvine House, Haslingden, Lancs.

Martha Greenwood. 56, was a firebrick and sanitary tube manufacturer employing 33 men and six boys. 22 Mount Street, Halifax.

Amelia Holzapffel, 77, was a lathe and tool manufacturer employing 30 men and two boys, 127 Long Acres, Strand, London.

Sarah Garfitt, 51, was a scythe manufacturer employing twenty men and six boys. 6 Priory Place, Eccleshall, Yorks.

Harriet Willington, 54, was an electro-plate manufacturer employing seven men, four women, two boys.

Lucy Steward, 46, was a spectcle manufacturer employing seven men three boys and thirteen women.

Louisa Reed, 37, was a bolt manufacturer employing 15 men and two boys, 57 Huddersfield Road, Oldham.

Mary Allen, 43 was a silk manufacturer employing 76 hands. 10 Victoria Cottages, Leek, Staffs.

Emily Cuzner, 57, was a 'truss and bandage maker (surgical instrument maker)' employing eight hands, living 14 Prospect Street, Hull.

Ellen Baxter, 43, a widow with two teenage children, farmed 230 acres, and employed seven men, a boy, and a girl (12) as a household servant at Marsh Farm Westhampnett, Sussex.

Hannah Broad, 65, was a coal merchant and farmer employing six men and eight boys at Bankside, Burgess Hill, Sussex.

Sarah Dunball, 52, was a farmer with 382 acres employing 19 men at North End, Ditchling, Sussex.

Ann Solly, 58, was a farmer with 2,000 acres, employing 46 men and 13 boys at Mundon Hall, Maldon, Essex.

Mary Allen, 62, of Church Lane Manor House in Blaby was a farmer of 500 acres employing 14 men and seven boys.

Frances D. Randell, 42, was a farmer of 910 acres employing 30 men and three boys.

Elizabeth Bailey was the publican of the Red Lion Inn at Dunston, Lincs, and farmed 80 acres, employing a labourer and a servant.

Martha White, 40, was a gold and silver watch-dial manufacturer employing four men and two boys. 28 Fleet Street, Coventry.

Miss Julia Allen, 30, was a vest maker emplying 84 hands. 96 Wrentham Street, Birmingham.

Elizabeth Abbott, 41, was a box maker employing six girls and one boy at 25 Norfolk Road Finsbury.

Widow Susan Ackerman of 31 King's Road, Reading, was a 'wireworker master employing three men and one boy'.

Sarah Adams, 42, a widow with six children, was described as a 'fancy stationer mistress employing four men, six boys, one girl' at 22 St Owen Street, Hereford.

May Ade, 69, of 3 Couldrey's Cottages, Plumpton, Sussex, was a cowkeeper employing one man.

Mary A. Aland, 44, 18 Sutton Street, Holborn, London, a widow with ten children (ages 21 to 3) was a metal gilder employing three men and one woman.

Margaret Allen, 56, of Barrons Yard, Keswick, was a widow with one daughter. She was a 'coach maker employing nine men and three boys'.

Sarah Anderson, 58, a widow, was a coach builder employing seven men and five boys at 37 St Peter's Hill, Grantham.

Eliza Andrew, 51, was an engineer and machine maker employing 57 men and two boys at Belmont Terrace, Stockport.

Mrs Annie Allen, 41, of 104 High Street, Barnstaple, was a dressmaker employing seven women and six apprentices.

Emily Allen, a widow of 57, was a belt maker employing one girl, at 4 Jewin Crescent, Cripplegate, London.

Susanna Allen, 70, owned a blacksmith's business in which she employed two men at Dorchester.

Lettitia Allwright, 57, was a poulterer employing five men and two boys at 54 Rathbone Place, Marylebone.

Mary Amos was a draper employing three assistants at 4 Cannon St, Dover.

Jane Archer of Bondend, Gloucester, was a 70-year-old widow who was a miller, farmer and baker employing four men and two boys.

Emily Archer,67, of 106 Dorset Road Lambeth was a brewer employing 13 men and one boy.

Eliza Ashby, 49, a widow, was a fire iron manufacturer employing three men and one boy, at 77 Malinder Street, Sheffield.

Elizabeth Ashby, 47, widow, brewer and maltster employing twelve men, Eling Brewery House, Rumbridge Street, Eling, Hampshire.

Ann Ashworth, 54, a widow, was a tailor employing seven men and two women, at 39 & 41 Market Street, Haslingden.

Mary Aslin was a jewel case manufacturer employing three boys and four girls, at 35 Clerkenwell Close, Holborn.

Nancy Astin, 41, was a hairdresser and perfumier employing three men and one boy at 3 & 5 Fleet Street, Burnley.

Ann Astley, 67, was a 'saddler and harness maker mistress' employing two men at The Green Saddler's Shop, Hungerford.

AnneK. Atkinson was a 'bricklayer master employing four men' at Croydon Road, Sevenoaks.

Mary B. Atkinson, 53, was a 'rope twine maker employing three men and nine boys' at 2 Deepdale Terrace, Preston.

Elizabeth Anscombe was a house decorator employing five men and two boys.

Ann Aydon was a 'general smith and shoeing smith master employing two men' at 13 Walmgate, York.

Elen Bacon, 52, was a brick manufacturer employing two men and one boy at Derby Road, Chesterfield.

Jane Bailey, 56, was a 'builder employing nine mechanics, three boys and seven labourers at Crown Street, Thatcham, Berks.

Sarah H. Bailey, 48, was a 'carver and gilder employingfour men and two boys' at 38 Cherry Street, Birmingham.

Mary Balmforth, 56 was a currier employing three boys at Pavement Street, Bradford.

Sarah Bampton, 40, was a rake and wood handle maker eploying one man, at Winchester Street, Botley, Hants.

Mary Banks, 65 was a corn miller proprietor employing five men at 1 Wigan Road, Leigh, Lancs.

Mary A. Bannister, 44, was a stonemason employing two men and two boys at North Bar Without, Beverley, Yorks.

Eliza Barber was a 'yarn winding mistress employing four women, one girl, one man, and one boy at 52 Bell Street, Blaby.

Mary Barge, 41, was a bootseller and machinist employing ten women and girls at 33 Burdett Road, Mile End, London.

Eleanor Barnes, 41, was a printer employing five hands at Bridge Street, Norwich.

Jane Barnes, 64, was a stone mason master employing four men at 28 Queen Street, Woolwich.

Ellen Barrow, 54, was a boot and shoe dealer employing 13 hands at 12 Cavendish Road, Leeds.

Charlotte Bushby, 69, bookseller and printer employing five men. 2 Vine Street, Grantham.

Caoline Biddis, 58, was a plumber and decorator employing ten people. 19 Northbrook St, Newbury.

Sarah Bastin, 59, was a cabinet maker employing three men at 8 Gibraltar Walk, Bethnal Green. London.

Hannah Bavin, 58, chair maker mistress employing six men and one boy at 107 Worship Street, Shoreditch.

Lucy Bedford, 43, was a manufacturing stationer employing five females and one boy.

Mary Beldam, 59, was an agricultural machine proprietor at Green End, Shelford, Chesterton.

Maria Benskin, 61, was a brewer employing 34 men at 196 High Street, Watford.

Mary Benham, 54, was a newspaper proprietor, publisher, printer and bookbinder. Crouch St, Colchester.

Mary Bentley, 60, laundress employing 20 women at 9 Howell Street, Paddington.

Mary Berry, 61, was a manufacturer and farmer of 1,319 acres employing 279 persons plus 40 half-timers. Holme House, Colne.

Martha Baron, 50, was a clogmaker mistress employing nine men, at 165 Manchester Road, Wigan.

Elizabeth Biggin, 52, was a ferrule manufacturer employing ten men, two boys and one girl. 7 Glen Road, Ecclesall

Naomi Bird, 32, was a straw dyer employing three men and one boy, at Leighton Buzzard.

Sarah Brook, 58, was a woollen manufacturer employing 37 men, and farmer of 23 acres, Butterworth Hill, Huddersfield,

Mary Ann Brown, 49, was a dairywoman employing ten men at 1 Kentish Town Road, London.

Jane Brownet, 63, was a silversmith employing six men, lived at 1 Richmond Bldgs, Westminster.

Betsy Browning, 60, was a cooper employing six men, living at 5 St James's Sq, Wolverhampton.

Miss Harriet Burch, 36, packing case manufacturer employing five men and one boy; living 24 Glovers Road, Aston.

Lois Simpson, 55, was a publisher employing four men, 54 Penton Place, Southwark.

Mary Ann Day, 20, was a brothel keeper employing two prostitutes at 4 St Thomas Street, Doncaster.

Maria Boosey, 75, owner a nursery and market garden employing eight men and two boys at Rochford Rd Nurseries, Rayleigh, Essex.

Elizabeth Bracewell, 53, was a 'cotton manufacturer employing 330 workpeople'. She lived at 8 Keighley Road, Colne.

Amelia Brennan, 53, was a lucifer match manufacturer 11 Delauney's Yard, Crumpsall.

Mary A. Bligh, 47, was a publisher employing five men and two boys at 5 Hardres Street, Ramsgate.

Miss Harriett J. Boolds, 64, was a draper employing 28 assistants, eight milliners, five dressmakers, six apprentices and three porters at 1 to 4 Market Street, Stoke Dameral, Devonport.

Harriet James Boolds was the daughter of a shipwright in the Royal Dockyard. In 1838, at the age of 22, she opened a small haberdashery shop in Pond Lane, in what had become the Town of Devonport. She 'is reputed to have had boundless energy and regarded with unconcern the tedious coach journeys to London when buying had to be done. She was one of the first to get the coach to Exeter and change on to the railway for the remainder of the journey to London. In 1860 she took on her brother, Edwin as a junior partner. He had previously served his apprenticeship with her and worked for other firms. The business became H. J. & E. A. Boolds. They opened other shops around town. She died in 1896 and the business stayed in the family and ceased trading in the 1920s. In 1931 her brother's wife and daughter, Amelia and Millicent Boolds, opened a draper in Plymouth, which closed in 1985. From http://www.plymouthdata.info/Business%20Houses-Boolds%20HJ%20EA.htm

This website is 'work in progress' and therefore pages may not yet be started, let alone finished.

All pages © Helena Wojtczak 2009. Corrections and additions are warmly welcomed. Email me