Women Mean Business:
Colonial businesswomen in New Zealand
'the best kind of history - the kind that tells us history is not what we thought it was'
review, North & South magazine 2019
2021: WMB shortlisted for NZ Historical Association's biennial W.H. Oliver Prize for Best Book in NZ History
2020: WMB longlisted for non fiction award in Ockham NZ Book Awards
2019: WMB shortlisted for Heritage NZ Book Award
This history populates nineteenth-century New Zealand with entrepreneurial women.
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.
Otago University Press
published October 2019
Price: 45 NZD