Tuesday 1 October 2019 9:45am
From Kaitaia in Northland to Oban on Stewart Island, New Zealand’s nineteenth-century towns were full of entrepreneurial women. Contrary to what we might expect, colonial women were not only wives and mothers or domestic servants. A surprising number ran their own businesses, supporting themselves and their families, sometimes in productive partnership with husbands, but in other cases compensating for a spouse’s incompetence, intemperance, absence – or all three.
The pages of this book overflow with the stories of hard-working milliners and dressmakers, teachers, boarding-house keepers and laundresses, colourful publicans, brothelkeepers and travelling performers, along with the odd taxidermist, bootmaker and butcher – and Australasia’s first woman chemist.
Then, as now, there was no ‘typical’ businesswoman. They were middle and working class; young and old; Māori and Pākehā; single, married, widowed and sometimes bigamists. Their businesses could be wild successes or dismal failures, lasting just a few months or a lifetime.
In this fascinating and entertaining book, award-winning historian Dr Catherine Bishop showcases many of the individual businesswomen whose efforts, collectively, contributed so much to the making of urban life in New Zealand.
Dr Catherine Bishop grew up in Whanganui. She completed her first degree at Victoria University in Wellington, before working as a maths teacher, bookseller and mother in the UK and Australia. She finished her PhD at the Australian National University in 2012 and now lives in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. Her first book, Minding Her Own Business: Colonial businesswomen in Sydney (NewSouth, 2015), won the prestigious Ashurst Business Literature Prize in 2016. She currently holds a research fellowship funded by the Australian Research Council at Macquarie University, where she is writing a history of women in business in twentieth-century Australia. The research for Women Mean Business was assisted by a New Zealand History Trust Award.
Paperback, 404 pp, ISBN 9781988531762, $49.95