Public Lecture - Women Mean Business: Colonial Businesswomen in New Zealand

Date Monday 11 November 2019
Time 1pm - 2pm
Location University of Waikato (S.1.01)
Presenter Dr Catherine Bishop
Contact Dr Charlotte Greenhalgh
Contact email
Cost Free

In the nineteenth century, we are told, a woman’s place was in the home. But take a look beyond the public rhetoric and women can be found engaged in commercial activities. Moneymaking was essential in colonial New Zealand, both for the progress of the colonial project as a whole and for the survival and prosperity of individuals. Women in business dealt with strangers, both male and female, spoke in public, opened up their homes and ventured out onto the streets as they engaged in the muddy, murky world of trade, all in apparent contradiction with public rhetoric about female respectability. This paper explores the ways nineteenth-century women of different classes and ethnicities negotiated the boundaries of their idealised ‘domestic helpmeet’ roles, sometimes exploiting their femininity to run businesses, make money and remain ‘respectable’. It will also reflect on how these gendered encounters in the commercial world have been recorded and remembered. While there is a wealth of women’s and feminist history, in which enterprising women make their appearances, it is still possible to find recent social and economic histories that ignore the vital relationship between gender and business that I explore in this paper.

Born and raised in Whanganui, Dr Catherine Bishop is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Macquarie University in Sydney, researching a history of Australian businesswomen since 1880. Her first book Minding Her Own Business: Colonial Businesswomen in Sydney (NewSouth Publishing, 2015) won the prestigious 2016 Ashurst Business Literature Prize. Women Mean Business: Colonial businesswomen in New Zealand (Otago Uni Press) is her second book. She is also co-editing Female Entrepreneurs in the Long Nineteenth Century: A Global Perspective (Palgrave 2020) with Dr Jennifer Aston (Northumbria University, UK), writing a biography of a female missionary and researching a series of Cold War world youth forums.