Women mean business: colonial businesswomen in New Zealand

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


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
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDunedin
PublisherOtago University Press
Number of pages404
ISBN (Print)9781988531762
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Businesswomen
  • Women-owned business enterprises
  • New Zealand
  • 19th century


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