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The social shaping of business behaviour in the nineteenth-century women's garment trades.


A popular account of the development of the clothing trade in the South Bridge area of Edinburgh, published in 1901 as a publicity device by J. and R. Allan Ltd., a major department store owned by a male entrepreneur, failed to mention a single firm that was owned and operated by a woman, despite the fact that the women's garment trade had been centred on this area of the city for decades and there were numerous women with premises in South Bridge.(1) This history of economic development in turn-of-the-century Edinburgh - like the similar histories of many other cities during the same period - provides a narrative of business evolution in which the rise of individual firms such as J. and R. Allan Ltd. is linked to the municipal and political affairs of the city.(2) Women, of course, had no tradition of formal association with the administration of cities or nations and were consequently invisible to such commentators in the past.(3)

The preoccupations of modern historians have also obscured our understanding of the scale and role of women in business. There is a rhetoric common to most business histories that suggests that modern capitalist firms act on the basis of a uniform economic agenda and that behaviour within firms is dictated by entrepreneurial ambition. Such rhetoric was also articulated in the past, especially in contemporary accounts of nineteenth-century business, with their focus on the self-made man, the individualist owner-manager, often engaged in heroic technical innovation and a dedicated pursuit of growth.(4) Successful businesses - defined according to market share, employee numbers, commitment to innovation, and length of survival - have dominated the interests of business historians, and business behaviour that restricts growth, or innovation, or profit maximization has been characterised as the failure of entrepreneurship.(5) Though size-dualism is widely recognised as a one of the defining characteristics of nineteenth-century business in Britain, and the vast majority of businesses were small in scale and unmodernised in their structure and strategy, business and economic historians have tended to find this a problematic phenomenon.(6)

The flowering of women's history over the past twenty years has raised awareness of the presence of women in the nineteenth-century business world in certain contexts, particularly in the early-modern period(7) and in such pioneer economies as the United States.(8) We know a great deal more about women's roles within the family context of small-scale retail,(9) and women's contributions to family-firm finance or their strategic marriages to support business partnerships has generated much interest.(10) The impact of gender on corporate development and on the internal characteristics of large financial business has also attracted recent scholarly attention.(11) But the dominant paradigm that has shaped the history of women in nineteenth-century Britain has not enhanced our understanding of independent women in business. The preoccupation with separate spheres ideologies and with the transition from the relative economic freedom of the eighteenth century to occupational restraint and imposed domesticity through much of the nineteenth century has marginalised those women who were active in their own firms, the classic businesswoman being characterised as the impoverished widow reduced to a life of penny capitalism.(12) The most influential account of the economic and social experience of men and women in the British middle class, focussed on the lives and experience of the business-owning groups, while acknowledging that some women did engage in trade, has effectively dismissed them as insignificant in numbers and operating at "the less capitalized, less formal end of the commercial spectrum with quick turnover and short credit chains."(13)

Ignored by contemporaries, only a footnote in the standard business histories and dismissed by those historians of women's lives who have promoted a separate spheres narrative, women in business have been rarely acknowledged. Yet there were vast numbers of women entrepreneurs in the nineteenth century, many pursuing life-long and successful business careers. In Edinburgh in 1891, when the Census of Britain first records the employment status of the occupied workforce, women comprised a tenth of all commercial employers, and the figure was as high as twenty percent in the larger and more industrial city of Glasgow.(14) Though disproportionately located in big cities, we can estimate that about a fifth of all firms in nineteenth-century Britain, including self-employed businesses, were owned and operated by women.(15) The largest group of women entrepreneurs - comprising almost twenty-two thousand women who employed the labour of others in 1891 - were those involved in the women's garment trades.(16) Within this sector, the largest firms had up to twenty apprentices and "improvers," a couple of trained shopwomen, sometimes a forewoman and generally two or three owner-partners, usually sisters. The women involved were predominantly spinsters, aged in their thirties or forties and at the prime of life.(17) Collectively, women's presence in business ownership in the nineteenth century was broadly equivalent to their presence in the late twentieth century in managerial and professional occupations.(18)

Given their significant numbers, it is tempting to ask why such women failed to articulate their own presence in the world of commerce. Since many women in the food or accommodation trades were middle-aged and widowed, often with dependent children, it is easy to understand the absence of an aggressive entrepreneurial stance among this group. Indeed, securing a stable and safe income was their main objective. Among younger women, however, and particularly among dressmakers and milliners with life-long careers in business the situation was more complex, for as shown below, they did seek success, but they also engaged in deliberately cultivated strategies designed to obscure their involvement in business. This was not because they were ashamed of an active economic life or preoccupied with the damaging status-implications of being in business - indeed, most women in this sector came from an artisan or lower middle-class background and their businesses potentially represented upward mobility. Rather, it was because of the expectations of customers. Their business strategies were defined by a social and cultural agenda that de-commercialised their product; they were shaped not by the laws of the modern market economy, but by social expectations, some of recent invention, some located in rich traditions and cultural associations.

In all societies, clothing possesses rich and complex cultural meaning, and this shaped to a critical degree the business of clothing production in the nineteenth century. The products of the women's garment trades were both made by women and consumed by women in ways that stressed non-utilitarian satisfactions. This is one of the primary reasons why the sector evolved as it did, and why individual women entrepreneurs within the sector behaved in a manner that often appeared "unbusinesslike." Prior to the emergence of modern commercial society, when most clothing was made at home often from home made cloth, cloth and clothing held a special symbolic role. In western society, as elsewhere in the pre-modern world, the process of manufacture and the commodity itself were infused with spiritual value and ritual potency. The accumulation of cloth as a form of wealth, its role in gift-giving ceremonies and in the marking of rites of passage gave cloth a special semiotic meaning which was particularly constructed around the labour and culture of women.(19)

The development of capitalist cloth production ruptured the traditional associations with which cloth was imbued, and in particular robbed the female domestic spinner of a creative role in a critical area of popular material culture. With the loss of spinning, women were forced to rely on needlework as an avenue for cultural expression in the material world of goods. The Scots in the eighteenth century even had a special word - eydency - to describe the still, patient and virtuous labour of a woman engaged in domestic needlework.(20) Needlework, including lacemaking, embroidery and garment making, developed an important commercial dimension from the eighteenth century, but, unlike factory-made goods, individualised aesthetic elaboration remained a critical feature of the commodities that were made. This allowed continued scope for ritual and symbolic meaning to be invested in both the act of production and the act of consumption when made and performed by women. Some of the ritual and symbolism was traditional, some of it was newly elaborated, developing hand-in-hand with ideas about female sensibility and the nineteenth-century cult of separate spheres.(21)

As is often remarked, but rarely explored, "British goods [of the nineteenth century] retained many of the highly differentiated features of traditional production. . . . This was partly an aspect of Britain's cultural commitment, in a partially modernized society, to the trappings of an earlier age, with its hint of the rural and the non-industrial."(22) Far from being a marginal influence, social and cultural imperatives acted to shape business behaviour and business experience to a profound degree. This essay aims to show that businesses that were part of a vast but stubbornly unmodernised sector and were apparently "unsuccessful" in economic terms, existed to serve a non-utilitarian cultural agenda defined by producers and the market alike, and were deliberately cultivated. What is more, they were successful in economic terms when viewed from the perspective of family-income strategies, though not always in the ways that are commonly identified by those business historians who have an over-arching preoccupation with growth. based on a study of women entrepreneurs in a localised business community centred on Edinburgh, the following discussion draws illustrative details from a sample of fifty-three business biographies of women-owned firms that were active in this professions- and service-oriented city in the second half of the nineteenth century.(23)

The Women's Garment Trades

Clothing manufacture was a massive sector within the British economy, employing between fifteen and twenty percent of the total industrial workforce throughout the nineteenth century and comprising six percent of the total value of industrial output in Britain at the end of the century.(24) There were many more women working in the industry than men. In Edinburgh in 1891, the Industrial Census revealed a total clothing-manufacture workforce of fourteen-thousand individuals, of whom sixty-five percent were women. This group of workers included nine hundred and eighty-five business owners who employed the labour of others, of whom thirty-three percent were women and there were a further thirteen-hundred self-employed small firms.(25) In the large, consumption-oriented city of Edinburgh, there were almost six hundred businesses in the garment making sector owned by women in the 1890s, which comprised forty-five percent of all women-owned firms.(26) The next largest group of women entrepreneurs, comprising just less than four hundred women, were food retailers, dominated by one hundred and fifty-eight dairywomen and milk-sellers. Of remaining women entrepreneurs in Edinburgh, a tenth were lodging house keepers; there was a large group in business as stationers and booksellers and the rest owned and operated private schools, an unusually high number reflecting the middle-class and professional orientation of the city's population.(27)

Unique among the different areas of female entrepreneurship, women's garment making - dominated by dressmakers, staymakers and milliners, but also including straw hat makers and baby-linen makers - was an area of business that involved both skilled production and retail. But it was a fractured and unmodernised sector, based on small workshops, subcontracting and the employment of large numbers of poorly paid apprentices and domestic outworkers. The relative backwardness of the clothing sector when compared with other areas of production was reinforced rather than negated by the major technical development of the nineteenth century, the sewing machine.(28) Factory production only came to dominate the industry in the early twentieth century, and this was generally controlled by male entrepreneurs.(29) Milliners and dressmakers often engaged in small-scale haberdashery retail to customers involved in home dressmaking, but most haberdashers and drapers were men.(30) Haberdashers, drapers and silk mercers sometimes expanded into the retail of ready-made clothing, and the early department stores generally developed through this route, but women were only rarely at the helm of these firms, though they may have had a hand in their founding.(31)

The majority of businesses in the garment-making sector engaged in direct bespoke production for personal customers, but smaller firms also undertook work on a subcontracting basis for the ready-made trade, which was dominated by large retail clothiers and male-owned enterprises. The city of Edinburgh occupied an important place in the national distribution of bespoke garment production for women. London was the location of the most important dressmaking and millinery establishments, and any provincial dressmaker with aspirations to a business career was required to spend some part of her training in a London fashion house. Needless to say, a training in Paris was an even greater business asset. A handful of provincial centres, dominated by Edinburgh and Dublin, with long traditions of servicing a wealthy population, occupied a second level of fashion production and the major fashion houses in these cities played a role in the production of high quality garments, as well as trained dressmakers.(32)

The social investigator and journalist Henry Mayhew, describing independent dressmakers and milliners for readers of the Morning Chronicle, identified a number of distinct types of business and their associated market and employment strategies.(33) Though referring to London in 1850, such businesses and strategies were also typical of large provincial towns, and were characteristic of the sector throughout the century. A "first-rate house of business" had extensive showrooms, supplied every kind of ladies wearing apparel other than shoes, and employed five or six showroom women, six or seven first hands, and fifteen to twenty young women as second or third hands. Such businesses took few apprentices or "improvers" because they traded on the high quality of their output, which required a skilled workforce. First-rate houses specialised in court dresses and in the costume required by the very rich, and were largely concentrated in London. Second-rate houses had customers drawn from the middle rather than the upper classes, but engaged in a similarly high quality of output. Both types of business invested great energies into the cultivation of a fashionable image and focused their production on the skilled task of designing and making the bodice and sleeves to a garment. Skirt-making, a simple but laborious task before the wide use of sewing machines, was undertaken on an out-work basis by home-based seamstresses of limited skill.

Mayhew also identified third and fourth rate dressmaking houses, which were distinguished from one another mainly by the textiles used, the output from the former dominated by silk, and from the latter by cotton. These types of business were patronised by the wives of "tradesmen and mechanics" and the lower middle classes, and they made all parts of the garment, including the simple but labour-intensive skirt. These were the most numerous type of firm in the women's garment-making trades and they collectively employed the largest numbers of workers, generally in units of up to six young women. There was another very numerous class of dressmaker, the private or self-employed women who visited customers in their own homes and made all parts of the garment, but employed no assistance.

As described by Mayhew, and was certainly evident from the vast boarding houses in the fashion districts of Edinburgh, the garment-making trades were built around an elaborate system of apprenticeship that implied training in rare and difficult techniques, but in practice was a way of acquiring free labour to undertake largely unskilled tasks such as hemming and seam stitching. In 1861 over a third of female garment workers in Edinburgh were aged twenty years or younger, and most of these were apprentices, drawn to the city from all parts of Britain, and nominally undergoing training.(34) In addition to acquiring a free labour force, businesswomen who took an apprentice received a premium to cover the costs of board if the girl resided in the home of her employer. If the girl lived with her family, which was relatively rare, no premium was paid since the girl's labour was regarded as sufficient payment for the training received. Mid-century premiums ranged in value from [pounds]10 to [pounds]50, and were normally paid at the start of a three or four year apprenticeship. Premiums were an important source of working capital for many businesses of third or fourth-rate status. Mayhew described one case in which the entrepreneur concerned, a shopkeeper, had no dressmaking skills herself but was able to establish herself in a flourishing dressmaking business by using the sums supplied by the apprentices to furnish a "house" and to employ a skilled first hand as designer and cutter.(35) After an apprenticeship it was normal to engage in a further period of semitraining - sometimes lasting for several years - when the worker was known as an "improver" and small wages were paid, along with lodgings, food and laundry.

Business Ownership as a Source of Income for Women

Despite its manifestly exploitative character - which was well understood and commonly lamented by contemporaries(36) - an apprenticeship in a dressmaking or millinery establishment was sought by the lower middle classes and especially by the aspirant working classes as a desirable career route for single daughters. One of the characteristics of dressmakers identified by Mayhew was the range of social backgrounds from which the women were drawn. The trade attracted elements of the middle classes because it offered the possibility of entry into business ownership to those who lacked capital but were capable of acquiring the technical skills and the skills of fashionable address and "taste" that were necessary for success in this sector. Most areas of women's entrepreneurship, and in particular shopkeeping, required capital for business start-up. Women who were most likely to have capital were lower middle-class widows whose husbands had invested in life insurance policies but whose investments in other areas were insufficient to sustain a non-working widow.(37) It was possible for skilled dressmakers and milliners to start in business on the basis of customers' contacts acquired while in the employment of another business and using materials advanced on credit by wholesale suppliers.(38) In practice, however, it was only the exceptional few that rose to the status of business owner. In Edinburgh in 1891, only eight percent of those who were classified by the census as milliners and dressmakers were described as employers.(39) Those who made it into the ranks of independent business, and enjoyed a successful and stable commercial existence, were disproportionately drawn from family backgrounds with relevant trade connections. So, of the fifty-three detailed business biographies that were traced for this study, nineteen of the women entrepreneurs had fathers or brothers engaged in such trades as tailoring or drapery, which gave them privileged points of contact with suppliers and markets. Miss Margaret Gordon Cameron, and the firm of Cameron and Violard, milliners, dressmakers, stay and corset makers, was such a case. She was active in business in Edinburgh between 1826 and 1870, and was a significant entrepreneur. She occupied various adjacent premises in George Street, at the heart of the central business district and one of the most fashionable shopping thoroughfares in Edinburgh, and in 1861 her business was located in a property that was described in the valuation rolls as a house and shop with an annual rateable value of [pounds]70. Using property values as a proxy for business size, this placed the business in the top five percent of firms in the garment trades, and in the top twenty percent of all firms in Edinburgh.(40) The house above the ground-floor shop, which was partly used for workshop purposes and for accommodating apprentices, comprised ten rooms and was substantial by contemporary standards.

Margaret Cameron was twice sequestered for bankruptcy, first in 1839 and again in 1846. She survived the sequestration on both occasions, testifying to remarkable business skills. Indeed, the conduct of the firm provides a good illustration of effective business strategies within a framework of constraint.(41) According to a statement made at her second bankruptcy, Cameron first commenced in business as a milliner and dressmaker, trading under her own name; the business was launched with a small capital sum that had been borrowed from her widowed mother.(42) Cameron and Violard was founded on 25 May 1835 as a partnership of twenty-two years duration between Margaret Cameron and John Cameron, her bachelor brother. The articles of co-partnery for the business are summarised in Figure 1. The name "Violard" was fictitious and adopted for marketing purposes. The firm was initially styled "silk mercers, milliners and dressmakers," reflecting the principal business activity of John Cameron. Margaret Cameron was later to run the business as a sole proprietor engaged only in millinery and dressmaking, and her brother, from whom she parted in 1839, continued to trade in business on his own account as a silk mercer, apparently on good terms with Margaret and presumably providing her with valuable market connections. The partnership arrangement was business-like and efficient, and largely under the direction and control of Margaret, who owned the principal share of the firm. The brother was responsible for the financial affairs of the firm, which was an effective way of getting round some of the "separate spheres" barriers that doubtless existed for Margaret Cameron. Indeed, the formal distribution of business responsibilities within the firm while it was in joint ownership clearly conformed to a classic separate spheres dichotomy which protected the gender interests of both brother and sister. But Margaret had control of the essential aspects of the business, and was in a position to engage in travel, including travel abroad, to secure market information and materials. In her later business career, after the departure of the brother, Cameron and Violard was sustained by loans from commission agents acting on behalf of trade suppliers, and although there was a difficult period in 1846, when Margaret Cameron was obliged to suspend payments and enter sequestration for a second time, the business survived and went on to thrive in the 1850s and 1860s.

Margaret Cameron never married; one of the striking characteristics of this area of business is that the entrepreneurs were disproportionately spinsters.(44) Life-long spinsterhood was a common experience in nineteenth-century Europe, particularly among the middle classes, and pervasive in Scotland where male emigration was at an extraordinarily high level throughout the century. In Edinburgh, about a third of women were life-long spinsters, many born outside the city and attracted there by the opportunities for employment.(45) Most of these women had to make their own living through their own efforts, and they and their families planned for this from an early stage in life. The vast majority of families, even in the middle classes, could not afford to keep non-working daughters and marriage was not a certain alternative. Indeed, for many women marriage came late in life if it happened at all.(46)

Strategies for securing a livelihood for single women varied according to the occupations, status and connections of the family concerned, and changed over the course of the century as new areas of employment such as office work emerged. One of the key devices was the cultivation of "dovetailed" effort whereby the income-producing activities of one related woman reinforced and supplemented those of another, generally a sister, through the capacity to provide personal contacts or through the acquisition of complementary skills. This was one of the principal attractions of the garment trades, which allowed sisters, sometimes in conjunction with a widowed mother, an ability to maximize their joint income through a business that incorporated up to three separate and highly skilled areas of production - millinery, dressmaking, and stay and corset making - as well as other tangentially related trades. In the eighteenth century, when the right to practice one of the skilled trades was still tightly controlled by burgh organisations, dressmaking and millinery were the preserve of the single daughters or widows of burgesses.(47) Though entry to business was no longer subject to formal control, the traditional association with single women, particularly those with a family background in business associated with garment making and the cloth trade, remained important, suggesting it had a real utility in the lives and circumstances of these women and their families. The combining of teaching with some aspect of garment making was also a common device, since teaching in private families or in fee-paying schools furnished contacts with potential customers for dressmaking sisters. Widows with large families of grown and unmarried daughters living at home also turned to the garment trades as part of a coordinated income-generating strategy. It was not unusual for a widow to operate a lodging house from the same premises where she and her daughters also ran a dressmaking business.(48) This was seen in the Morris family, in business in Edinburgh between 1870 and 1900. The firm of Misses Morris, milliners and dressmakers was founded by Mary, a spinster aged twenty-eight, and her recently-widowed younger sister Alice Wylie, who was the mother of a two-year old son and had been married to a commercial traveller. Their mother, also a widow, took lodgers into the house, which, with six rooms, was comfortably large. The lodgers tended to be young men, either students or clerks, and each census revealed the presence of one or two. One of these young men, a medical student, eventually, when qualified, married the widowed Alice Wylie, who was four years his senior, and they moved to Lancashire where they raised a large family. In later life, following the death of her mother and departure of Alice, Mary Morris continued her dressmaking firm and the lodgings' side of the family activity was continued by a second widowed sister who had returned to the family home. The business ended in 1900 and Mary died in 1902, at the age of sixty-two years and leaving a fortune of almost five hundred pounds to her nephew, the son of Alice Wylie by her first husband, mostly in the form of bank deposits and shares in public companies.(49)

Out of the fifty-three business biographies that form the core of the Edinburgh study, forty-three involved women entrepreneurs whose success in business relied on their capacity to engage in a dove-tailing of income-generating activity with other female members of their family. Twenty-five were sibling partnerships and two were sibling and cousin partnerships; eleven were owned by widowed mother and daughter partnerships; four were male-female partnership (all comprising husband and wife) and eleven were single proprietorships, all but one a spinster. The Winter family provides another good illustration of a co-ordinated income-generating strategy among related women. The firm of Mrs Christian Winter, milliner and dressmaker was founded in Edinburgh 1846 when the owner - a milliner by training - was a forty-seven-year-old mother of five children. Her husband, a house factor, died a few years later and it seems probable that the firm was founded in the knowledge that the head-of-household's health was failing and in the realisation that the husband's employment could not be continued by his widow. By the mid-1850s, Mrs Winter was also operating a furnishings and trimmings shop and three of her daughters, now in their thirties, were running the garment-making business. One of the daughters was a straw hat maker and two were dressmakers. There was another daughter who was a laundress and a granddaughter, a furrier by trade, also periodically lived in the household. Two of the daughters married and moved to their own homes, but they remained involved with business interests of the family. The trimmings shop came to an end when Mrs Winter died in 1864, and the original firm continued in unbroken existence until 1894, when the last surviving sister, Jemima Brown, died at the age of sixty-five. She had been born in 1829 and married at the age of twenty-two to a lithographic printer, but practiced the trade of straw hat maker throughout her life.(50)

Business opportunities for women in the nineteenth century tended to be limited to a few sectors where the customers were dominated by women; hence the use of dovetailed strategies was partly dictated by an absence of alternatives. But there can be no doubt that the strategy worked, as the Morris and Winter families demonstrated with considerable success. Yet although highly successful as a device for generating an income for women, dovetailed strategies also had certain negative implications for successful engagement in efficient and competitive business practice of the kind that was designed to maximise profits and increase market share. And it is not surprising to discover that such partnerships were rare among male entrepreneurs, who preferred to maintain independence in business and only formed family partnership arrangements where a father after many years in business on his own account took a son into the firm.(51)

The downside of such partnership arrangements arose out of the fact that sisters - the core of most long-surviving businesses - were frequently regarded as interchangeable figures within a family. Even when single, they lacked a capacity for individualised identity. The interchangeability of women's identity is signalled in many ways. Sisters and daughters could become servants - they are sometimes even called "servant" in census schedules - or wife or mother substitutes when other female relatives had died.(52) The treatment of sisters in marriage frequently suggests an absence of a sense of individual identity. There were numberless occasions in both fact and fiction - it is, indeed, a stock subject of social satire - of the suitor who having been refused by one sister turns to another with his proposal of marriage.(53) It was common for a married woman to provide a home for an unmarried sister, and men at marriage expected their wives to form a sister-like arrangement with their own unmarried sisters, in anticipation that a sister might spend her life with the married couple. The Edinburgh firm of the Misses Cathels, active in business from 1854 to 1894, was such a case. The marriage of Jane Cathels late in life to an elderly widower living nearby took both of the sisters and their firm into a new domestic arrangement.(54) The common perception of the interchangeability of sisters in marriage was part of the background to the legal and moral debates of the 1860s over the question of marriage to a deceased wife's sister.(55)

In family financial affairs, sisters were treated as a package, bound together for life - or until they married - the individualised interests of each sister subordinated to those of the family as a whole.(56) Family trusts administered their collective wealth and when they died they often left joint wills and annuities which were similar in character to the joint wills and other types of inheritance arrangements that were typical of husband and wife.(57) Miss Mary Morris, whose family and business history is described above, left a life-interest in her estate to her widowed sister, who lived with her at the time of her death, nursed her in old age and ran a parallel lodgings business from the family home.(58) In business families - and most women entrepreneurs came from a small business background - there was a general expectation that their capital be available to aid family interests, even at the expense of their own.(59) This was true even in cases where the women in question were themselves in business.(60) Brothers did often enter the same areas of business and operated informal cooperative strategies, but they maintained their formal business independence and capacity for individual competitiveness, because they expected at some point in life to marry and support a family through their own efforts.(61) The non-individualised character of women's capital and women's business, coupled with the predominance of sister partners with a low expectation of marriage, informed how they regarded business investment and shaped their behaviour as entrepreneurs. It probably negated any imperative to maximize profits in the interests of self - one of the primary characteristics of the entrepreneur(62) - and promoted a business strategy whose primary rationale was stability rather than growth, profit accumulation for the future benefit of the family rather than the reinvestment of profit for the benefit of the firm.(63) Certainly, this was reflected in the community of women entrepreneurs in Edinburgh, which furnishes few examples of women engaged in active expansion, product diversification and risk taking, although there were many who made a good living from their businesses and had healthy bank accounts as a result.(64) In short, cultural norms conspired to make many women relatively inert in business - this was a cultivated inertia that compounded the broader economic problems of oversaturation in the sector in which they were most active. Male entrepreneurs, even in family firms, had much greater autonomy and were motivated by a social expectation that they act as individuals.

Clothing in Cultural Perspective

For the mass of women in the nineteenth century, the consumption of clothing was dominated by second-hand or hand-me-down clothes reworked at home, or by home made garments.(65) This was true even among the relatively wealthy. Single middle-class women living in their parents' home and not engaged in paid employment could spend up to three and a half hours a day in dressmaking for themselves.(66) The popularity of commercial paper patterns, home-dressmaking journals, and the domestic sewing machine in the later nineteenth century testify to the continuing role of home production, and underlined the fact that for many women, clothing required the expenditure of considerable personal effort.(67) Ready-made clothing did exist but before the rise of the department store, these "sweatshop" products were widely characterised as "cheap and nasty."(68)

A garment made to measure by a dressmaker was a special garment that represented a high financial investment. Irrespective of the status of the women involved - even domestic servants would occasionally order a dress from a dressmaker - bespoke garments affirmed femininity, gentility, an array of family or personal associations, and an absence of labour for the woman as consumer. The process of acquiring the garment - either the multiple visits to the dressmakers premises, or the convention that dressmakers visited the customer in their own home - was highly ritualised and constructed in a deliberate manner around ideas of leisure, femininity, domesticity and statements of conspicuous politeness, which further reinforced the cultural significance of the garment.(69) Family parties, weddings, birthdays and social visits were all deemed appropriate reasons for a new garment. Church going was an occasion when good clothes should be worn. One of the commonest reasons for calling on the services of a dressmaker was for the rapid production of mourning clothes following the death of a relative. Whether the family occasion was happy or sad, it imbued the garment and the act of acquiring the garment with strong emotional associations. The dressmaker with her commercial product was a significant figure in the cultural landscape of nineteenth-century women.

A desire to buy clothing that was laden with cultural value, acquired through a ritualised process that allowed women of all social backgrounds an opportunity to indulge, however briefly, in an idealised world of leisured femininity, secured the continued viability of the bespoke garment-making sector long after the development of mass production techniques and the wide availability of ready-made clothing. As working-class women acquired greater purchasing power, they too demanded access to this traditional form of feminised consumption. Male-owned businesses found it difficult to enter the trade other than in the name of a woman, or working in conjunction with a wife or, more rarely, a sister. The exceptions to this tended to be foreigners, normally Frenchmen, who were granted an unspoken cultural dispensation to enter the trade by virtue of their assumed aesthetic skills and their lack of "masculinity."(70) When large department stores first came into existence from the 1860s they also were obliged to cultivate some of the same business characteristics and associations as the female garment-making entrepreneurs, simply in order to attract the custom of women. Hence, the early presence of tea rooms in department stores, the contrived "domesticated" interiors of the different departments, and the conspicuous stress on the genteel and moral demeanour of the shop girls, who normally lived in closely-supervised dormitories above the premises.(71) The ladies' dress departments of many later nineteenth-century department stores offered made-to-measure services and also offered the option of being attended in the customer's own home, particularly for mourning clothes.(72)

The women's garment trades were more than simply an area of profit-maximizing business. For the women involved as business owners or workers, the garment trades were closely associated with the cultivation of a "genteel" appearance and manner, and an air of moral propriety, particularly among those who came into direct contact with bespoke customers. Businesses, even those with formal showrooms, were mostly conducted from domestic premises with a high investment in fashionable female furnishings and the material trappings of female domesticity.(73) The relative gentility and propriety of the trade made it attractive to many young women, particularly those with a working-class background who saw it as a preferred alternative to domestic service or, in those areas where it was available, to factory work.(74) Relationships between female employers and their female workforce were conducted around traditions of employment that were seen in few other areas of commercial production. It was usual for women, even skilled workers, to be paid in kind in the form of bed, board and laundry services - necessary to maintain their own good dress and appearance - and for the women to be subject to intense levels of personal supervision. The moral propriety of a dressmaking house was always a critical feature of its commercial reputation.(75)

The production and acquisition of male clothing operated according to very different principles. Even though tailored garments were more complex in their construction than women's dresses, ready-made clothing was more prominent in this market and utility was the dominating paradigm.(76) Male dress was generally more standardised than that of women and it was largely defined by associations with work or the professions. From the early nineteenth century, most men bought their clothes through clothiers, who also dealt directly and overtly with the anonymous wholesale trades. Though women's garment production was almost certainly worth more in annual turnover than men's garment production, commercial advertising was more prominent in the latter than in the former. Indeed, few women even in a city of the size of Edinburgh ever found it necessary to advertise their businesses. To do so would have compromised a business strategy of deliberately cultivated non-businesslike behaviour. Rather, they relied on personal recommendations and the loyalty of an established client network.

The nature of the market and the cultural associations with which their product was imbued acted to shape the character of the women's garment trades and maintained the traditional structure based on small personalised workshops, domestic production and a cultivated invisibility. The apparent inertia of individual businesses within the sector, an unwillingness to engage in business expansion, product innovation or diversification into related areas - other than in a few closely defined ways - was determined by social and cultural forces that acted on the entrepreneurs, their customers and their product. It is hard to identify a single critical factor that broke this relationship at the end of the nineteenth century, and paved the way for the modern, factory-based garments industry that we have today. Partly it has to do with a growing social distaste for the levels of exploitation associated with the trade, and the creation of more effective workshop regulation.(77) Partly it was a product of sophisticated marketing by department stores with ready-made and brand-name products of high quality designed to appeal to the middle-class market.(78) Certainly the availability of other types of employment for women, in offices and in the feminised professions, played a major role in undermining entry to the bespoke garment trades.(79) Changes in the cultural messages contained in women's garments themselves also played a part, particularly the transition in the 1880s towards quality ready-made tailored clothing, marketed by male entrepreneurs with the "new woman" in mind,(80) and with a deliberate stress on the masculine virtues of work, utility and the outdoor life. This transition was described by the Edinburgh firm of J. and R. Allan Ltd., owners of a department store, whose publication of 1901 provides a history of the garment trade in Edinburgh and a brief account of a century of women's fashions:

The prominent outstanding feature of women's attire in the closing years of this century is the smart, simple, serviceable, tailor-made coat and skirt costume, of tweeds, serges, and other woollen cloths . . . so suitable as a morning costume for the out-of-door life so many women lead. Nothing could be better adapted for this varying climate: and with a sailor hat on her head, and a pair of stout shoes on her feet, the girl of the period in a tailor-made costume can defy all weathers. This style of costume is peculiarly English, but it has found its way across the Channel, and to dress a l'Anglaise in short skirts and thick shoes is considered "smart" by the fair dames and demoiselles of Parisian society.(81)


Social mores of the nineteenth century have had a powerful and lasting cultural legacy in the twentieth century. Consider, for instance, the denouement of one of P. G. Wodehouse's comic novels of the 1930s, which revolves around the disclosure that Roderick Spode, an aggressively English, upper-class leader of a macho-military political party, is also the "founder and proprietor of the emporium in Bond Street known as Eulalie Soeurs," designers and retailers of ladies' lingerie; a fact that Spode has long sought to conceal.(82) By virtue of this revelation, Spode is characterised as neither manly, nor a gentleman, nor, indeed, a true "Englishman." Even at the end of the twentieth century we have an immediate understanding of the powerful cultural subtext that is operating here. It arises from an interplay of morally-laden ideas associated with gender, luxury, and also national identity which together have played a critical role in shaping both perceptions and realities of business behaviour in a major sector of the British economy, ever since that sector was first brought into capitalist production.

Certain commodities with deep social meaning gave women an area of significant entrepreneurial expression in the nineteenth century. The food production and retail sector occupied many women entrepreneurs, particularly wives and widows, because it had evolved through traditions and a modern marketing rhetoric that stressed images of community and family nurturing.(83) But it was clothing that attracted the largest numbers, and that also imposed the tightest straitjacket on the behaviour of business owners and on customer-expectations. For the women involved, the most appropriate and successful strategies in business were defined according to a cultural regime that said that women had no proper place in business life. It was a regime imposed from above, but aspired to from below, which had little to do with the reality of life for the women concerned, who all had to make their own way in the world. They had to work, and, for a variety of reasons, entry into the garment trades was an attractive career choice for the families of the women involved, but the family dimension tended to shape the way in which their businesses were conducted. Individualised competitive behaviour - a key characteristic of the classic entrepreneur - was not part of the family financial agenda that shaped these businesses. And the products of these firms also had meanings that transcended commercial considerations; meanings defined in part by nineteenth-century separate spheres, but also by long traditions of emotional associations that taken together conspired to de-commercialise a commercial commodity.

Women's garment making was defined in an especially marked way by a complex social and cultural agenda, but it was not the only area of commercial production that was socially defined. Indeed, all businesses to some degree were and are subject to similar forces. Nineteenth-century notions of masculine behaviour dictated male participation in business.(84) It was almost impossible for a man to be a dressmaker or milliner unless he was French or traded in the name of a woman. Male-owned businesses and their business behaviour were shaped according to an heroic, individualistic and nationalistic agenda. Even the description of women's tailored clothing that is cited above contains a subtle nationalist subtext. This array of characteristics was partly defined by separate spheres notions of masculinity and the public realm, and was partly a product of popular neoclassical economics with its stress on unrestricted competition. It arose out of the realities of empire building and frequent international warfare, whose purpose was mostly to secure economic advantages for Britain. It was also a product of business owner's relationships with a male industrial workforce in which ideas of masculine physicality were a central feature of skill, and central to the rhetoric of class and labour consciousness. British business was, by default, inherently political and aggressive, and became increasingly so as the century progressed and competition increased.(85) No wonder that women found it difficult to enter most sectors when business was defined in these terms, and no wonder that by the later nineteenth century large numbers of men preferred a career in the professions, where there was an entirely different code of ethics, built around notions of public good that transcended the narrow competitive interests of the individual or the nation.(86) Of course, much of the stress on heroic endeavour was sheer rhetoric, just as much of the stress on overt femininity and domesticity among women entrepreneurs was rhetoric - but this rhetoric did exist and it shaped the behaviour of business owners.

Figure 1

Articles of Co-Partnery between Margaret Cameron and John Cameron [Cameron and Violard: 1835](43)

* Capital stock consisting of stock in trade, furniture in shop and dwelling house, cash and debts are valued at [pounds]1300 [2/3 belonging to Margaret Cameron].

* Profits to be divided equally between the partners, and each shall pay one half of any merchandise or furniture purchased by the partners, or any losses on the business and dwelling house.

* Regular books showing the transactions of the company shall be brought to a general balance every six months, and a clear and distinct balance every twelve months.

* All cash received for sales should be entered into the books, which shall be kept in the shop, and when cash in hand amounts to [pounds]30 should be paid into a bank account in the name of the firm.

* The business shall be carried out on the principle of ready money business, and no credit given without the consent of both parties. Hours of business, 10:00am to 8 pm, and one hour for dinner, except during the busy season when the partners shall give such attendance as shall be required.

* Respective duties -

John Cameron: shall keep books, papers, accounts and other documents of the company, make out the inventories, balance the books and attend to the cash concerns of the company, rents, wages etc.

Margaret Cameron: shall purchase goods and merchandise, and for that purpose shall visit London and Paris for the purpose of purchasing goods and learning the fashions as often as both parties shall consider necessary. Shall superintend the dressmaking and millinery departments, shall attend to the sales and orders, and have full power and authority to order, check and control the clerks, servants and others employed by the company.

* Company to be dissolved in the event of death of either party, and on the marriage of either, neither the husband of one, nor the wife of the other, shall be allowed to interfere in any way with the said business without the consent of both parties being previously obtained.

Department of Economic and Social History Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9J4


This essay arises from an Economic and Social Research Council funded project titled "Women in the Garment Trades: Edinburgh 1775 to 1891," ESRC No: R000234068.

1. Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century . . . with an Account of the Building of South Bridge and a Sketch of the Fashions, Chiefly in Ladies Attire During the Last 100 Years, edited by W. M Gilbert for J. & R. Allan Ltd., 80-86 South Bridge Street (Edinburgh, 1901).

2. A. Eddington, Edinburgh and the Lothians at the Opening of the Twentieth Century (Brighton, 1904), is a municipal history of the area built around a series of "heroic" business histories of local firms.

3. Peter Hennock, Fit and Proper Persons: Ideal and Reality in Nineteenth-Century Local Government (London, 1973).

4. See, Stana Nenadic, "The Small Family Firm in Victorian Britain," Business History 35 (1993): 86-114.

5. The point is made by James A. Schmiechen, "State Reform and the Local Economy: an Aspect of Industrialization in Late Victorian and Edwardian London," Economic History Review 2nd ser., 28 (1975): 413 to account for the relative lack of interest in nineteenth-century garment making businesses.

6. R. Roger, "Concentration and Fragmentation: Capital, Labour and the Structure of Mid-Victorian Scottish Industry," Journal of Urban History 14 (1988): 178-213. For a broad perspective on this issue, see Jonathan Brown and Mary B. Rose, eds. Entrepreneurship, Networks and Modern Business (Manchester, 1993), "Introduction": 1-8.

7. Bridge Hill, Women, Work and Sexual Politics in Eighteenth-Century England (London 1989); Olwn Hufton, The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western Europe, 1500-1800 (London, 1995).

8. Caroline Bird, Enterprising Women (New York, 1976); Lucy Eldersveld Murphy, "Business Ladies: Midwestern Women and Enterprise, 1850-1880," Journal of Women's History 3 (1991): 65-89; Susan Ingalls Lewis, "'Female Entrepreneurs in Albany, 18401885," Business and Economic History 2nd series, 22 (1992): 65-73; Wendy Gamber, The Female Economy: The Millinery and Dressmaking Trades, 1860-1930 (Urbana, 1997).

9. Geoffrey Crossick and Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, eds., Shopkeepers and Master Artisans in Nineteenth-Century Europe (London, 1984); Michael J. Winstanley, The Shopkeeper's World, 1830-1914 (Manchester, 1983).

10. Notably, Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850 (London, 1987).

11. Angel Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business: Men and Women in the Corporate Office, 1870-1930 (Baltimore, 1994); M. Roper, Masculinity and the British Organisational Man since 1945 (Oxford, 1994).

12. Leonore Davidoff, "The Separation of Home and Work? Landladies and Lodgers in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century England" in Sandra Burman, ed., Fit Work for Women (New York, 1979).

13. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 302.

14. British Parliamentary Papers - 1891 Census of Scotland, vol 2 part 2 (Shannon, 1970), 540-544, 718-722, 775-778.

15. Estimate is based on Post Office Directory entries: Nenadic, "Small family firm," 90.

16. PP Accounts and Papers vol. 57, 1893-4, Population Census for England and Wales for 1891 Summary tables, x-xxv.

17. based on census details for the period 1861-91, 84% of the "record-linked" women entrepreneurs in the Edinburgh sample were unmarried and remained so throughout life.

18. Cary L. Cooper and Marilyn Davidson, Women in Management: Career Development for Managerial Success (London, 1984), v.

19. On this broad theme, see Annette B. Weiner and Jane Schneider, eds., Cloth and Human Experience (Washington, 1989).

20. John Galt, "The Seamstress" in John Galt, Selected Short Stories, ed. by Ian A. Gordon (Edinburgh, 1978), 21. The story was first published in 1833.

21. On emotional investment in goods, including clothing, see, Stana Nenadic, "Middle Rank Consumers and Domestic Culture in Edinburgh and Glasgow, 1720-1840," Past and Present no. 145 (1994): 122-156.

22. Oliver M. Westall "The Competitive Environment of British Business, 1850-1914" in Kirby and Rose, Business Enterprise in Modern Britain: From the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century (London, 1994), 217.

23. See note 26 for the nominal record-linkage approach to firms based on annual city directories. The fifty-three detailed business biographies - drawn from a population that comprised all women's firms in this sector for the period 1861 to 1891 - were of long surviving firms whose affairs were traced from core information taken from city directories, census and property valuation rolls, through to sequestration records and confirmation inventories of wealth at death. The family histories and connections of the women entrepreneurs were also traced using standard family reconstitution techniques based on registrations of births, marriages and deaths.

24. Francois Crouzet, The Victorian Economy (London, 1982), trans. by A. S. Forster, 187-9.

25. PP Accounts and Papers vol. 57, 1893-4, Industrial Census of Britain for 1891 (London, 1893).

26. The identification of firms was based on the nominal listings contained in the annual city directory. These were linked to information contained in census schedules and in property rate books. An account of the methodology employed in the study is given in S. Nenadic, "Record Linkage and the Small Family Firm: Edinburgh 1861 to 1891," Bulletin of the John Ryland Institute of Manchester 74 (1992): 169-195.

27. This distribution of women-owned businesses is similar to that in Philadelphia in 1860, though here the percentage of women who were single was much lower. C. Goldin, "The Economic Status of Women in the Early Republic: Quantitative Evidence," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 16 (1986): 377-93.

28. Schmeichen, "State Reform and the Local Economy"; R. A. Church, "Labour Supply and Innovation, 1850 to 1860; the Boot and Shoe Industry," Business History 12 (1970): 25-45; Charles Sabel and Jonathan Zeitlin, "Historical Alternatives to Mass Production: Politics, Markets and Technology in Nineteenth-Century Industrialisation," Past and Present no. 108 (1985): 133-76.

29. Crouzet, Victorian Economy, 187-9.

30. In 1891 there were 203 male drapers and mercers in Edinburgh who were also commercial employers and 30 women. Census of Scotland, 1891.

31. For a literary evocation of the classic nineteenth-century department store, founded by a woman but made successful by her husband, with a detailed description of the distinctly feminised culture of hedonistic luxury that was cultivated in such stores see, Emile Zola, Au Bonheur des Dames (Paris, 1883).

32. See, E. P. Thompson and E. Yeo, eds., The Unknown Mayhew: Selections from the Morning Chronicle, 1849-1850 (London, 1971), 428-439.

33. Ibid.

34. British Parliamentary Papers - 1891 Census of Scotland vol. 2 part 2 (Shannon, 1970).

35. Thompson and Yeo, The Unknown Mayhew, 428-439.

36. For a survey of this issue in popular perceptions and the government response see, C. Walkley, The Ghost in the Looking Glass: The Victorian Seamstress (London, 1990); J. A. Schmiechen, Sweated Industries and Sweated Labour: The London Clothing Trades, 1860-1914 (London, 1984).

37. Examples given in Nenadic, "Record Linkage and the Family Firm."

38. A case is described in the sequestration of 1804 of the Misses McLeod, milliners, straw hat makers, dressmakers and staymakers in Edinburgh, who owed [pounds]193 to trade suppliers in London, which had allowed them to set up in trade. The sisters absconded to the United States with the goods and the court case was abandoned. Scottish Record Office. CS96/3824.

39. British Parliamentary Papers - 1891 Census of Scotland vol. 2 part 2 (Shannon, 1970).

40. Nenadic, "Small Family Firm," 108-9.

41. Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh. CS280/1/1: CS280/41/26/7.

42. See cases cited in Nenadic, "Record Linkage."

43. Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh. CS280/1/1.

44. Eighty-four percent in the period 1861-1891. In the USA, where spinsterhood was less pervasive, married women dominated the garment trades. See Goldin, "The Economic Status of Women in the Early Republic," 375-404.

45. M. Anderson, "The Social Position of Spinsters in Mid-Victorian Britain," Journal of Family History 9 (1984): 377-93.

46. Ibid.

47. E. Sanderson, "The Edinburgh Milliners, 1720-1820," Costume 20 (1986): 18-28.

48. Of fifty-three business biographies for the second half of the nineteenth-century, seven involved the use of this family income strategy.

49. Case study based on record-linkage and family reconstitution - see note 23.

50. Ibid.

51. Nenadic, "The Small Family Firm," 94.

52. See, Leonore Davidoff, "Mastered for Life: Servant and Wife in Victorian and Edwardian England," Journal of Social History 7 (1974): 406-28.

53. Famous cases include Florence Nightingale, see Toni McNaron, The Sister Bond: A Feminist View of a Timeless Connection (New York, 1985). Notable fictional cases include Mr Collins' courting of the Bennet sisters in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (first published in 1814).

54. For the case-study approach, see note 23. When sisters left the firm, the consequences could be severe for those who remained behind. Two of the relatively rare cases of bankruptcy in Edinburgh women's garment firms were attributed to this cause. Magdalen Dunbar, milliner and dressmaker sequestered in 1815, cited the marriage of her sister and her removal from Edinburgh as the cause of business failure. Agnes Dow, a silk mercer, haberdasher and milliner in Leith in the 1830s was bankrupted following the loss of a sister-partner who suffered from a chronic mental illness. SRO CS96/3562; SRO CS96/4068.

55. K. M. Boyd, Scottish Church Attitudes to Sex, Marriage and the Family (Edinburgh, 1987).

56. Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes, part 2.

57. Anne McCrum, "Women and Inheritance in the Nineteenth-Century." Unpublished paper presented to the Scottish Family History Seminar, University of Edinburgh, 1995.

58. Scottish Record Office, SC70/1/410 248-254.

59. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, part 2.

60. As witnessed by the behaviour of the Misses Sarah and Catherine Cameron in 1882, stationers in Melrose, a small town to the south of Edinburgh, who made a major strategic financial intervention during the bankruptcy of their brother Robert Cameron, a stationer and publisher in Edinburgh, in order to save his firm from bankruptcy. A few years later the firm came to be known as R. M. Cameron and Son. Case cited in Stana Nenadic, "The Life-Cycle of Firms in Late Nineteenth Century Britain" in Phillippe Jobert and Michael Moss, eds., The Birth and Death of Companies in Historical Perspective (Carnforth, 1990), 193.

61. Intra-firm business strategies employed by brothers are discussed in Nenadic, "Small Family Firm," 94.

62. For a recent and influential account of the entrepreneur see, M. Casson, "Entrepreneurship and Business Culture" in J. Brown and M. B. Rose, eds., Entrepreneurship, Networks and Modern Business (Manchester, 1993).

63. For different reasons, women-owned firms today also tend to seek stability - though this characteristic is not unique to women. See, Richard Scase and Robert Coffee, Women in Charge: The Experiences of Female Entrepreneurs (London, 1985).

64. Bank deposits dominated women's wealth in all social groups. Stana Nenadic, "The Structure, Values and Influence of the Scottish Urban Middle Class: Glasgow 1800 to 1870" (Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Glasgow, 1986), ch. 2.

65. Beverley Lemire, Fashion's Favourites: The Cotton Trade and the Consumer in Britain, 1660-1800 (Oxford, 1991); W. Hamish Fraser, The Coming of the Mass Market, 1850-1914 (1981), ch. 5, 12.

66 Estimated from Z. Shonfield, The Precariously Privileged: A Professional Family in Victorian London (Oxford, 1987), 62-3.

67. R.B. Davies, "'Peacefully Working to Conquer the World': The Singer Manufacturing Company in Foreign Markets," Business History Review 43 (1969): 299-325; Margaret Walsh, "The Democratization of Fashion: The Emergence of the Women's Dress Pattern Industry," Journal of American History 66 (1979): 229-313.

68. The term was coined by Charles Kingsley and is cited in James A. Schmiechen, "State Reform and the Local Economy," 415.

69. The best indication of this comes through nineteenth-century novels. See, Elizabeth Gaskell, Ruth (London, 1853) and Mary Barton (London, 1848); also Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby (London, 1839) where the character of Madame Mantalini, the employer of Kate Nickleby, provides an insight to the darker side of the industry.

70. The fifty-three Edinburgh business biographies include two French-owned dressmaking firms, Madame Souyris and Madame Roques - which were connected through marriage. The first was a husband and wife business, and the second involved a dressmaking wife who was married to a hairdresser and perfumier.

71. A. Adburgham, Shops and Shopping, 1800-1914 (London, 1989); R. Williams, Dream Worlds: Mass Consumption in Late Nineteenth-Century France (Berkeley, 1982).

72. This was true of the firm of J. and R. Allen of Edinburgh, Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century, advertising end-piece.

73. Madame Mantalini's house and shop gives a good indications of this, Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, ch. 11; and it is reflected also in the inventories of women who went bankrupt in Edinburgh.

74. This is the reason for the decision by Mary Barton - the daughter of a factory worker - to enter a dressmaking apprenticeship; see Gaskell, Mary Barton, ch.2.

75. The moral dimension was complex, partly a product of the commercialisation of a commodity with a traditional symbolic relationship with virtue, partly connected with the fact that brothels often masqueraded as dressmaking establishments, and dressmaking establishments hired showroom women for their good looks. Gaskell's Ruth, provides a fictional perspective of the issue. Walkley, Ghost in the Looking Glass looks at the link between prostitution and the poor seamstress.

76. Fraser, Coming of the Mass Market, ch. 12.

77. J. A. Schmiechen, Sweated Industries and Sweated Labour.

78. Fraser, Coming of the Mass Market; Adburgham, Shops and Shopping.

79. Angela John, ed., Unequal Opportunities: Women's Employment in England, 1800-1918 (London, 1986); Elizabeth Roberts, Women's Work, 1840-1940 (London, 1988), p. 39-40. There was a massive drop in the numbers of dressmakers and milliners between 1911 and 1931.

80. Ruth Freeman and Patricia Klaus, "Blessed or Not? The New Spinster in England and the United States in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries," Journal of Family History 9 (1984): 394-414.

81. Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century, 267-8.

82. P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters (London, 1938), ch. 14.

83. Nenadic, "Small Family Firm," 95.

84. See, Philip Scranton, "Build a Firm, Start Another: The Bromleys and Family Firm Entrepreneurship in the Philadelphia Region" in Geoffrey Jones and Mary B. Rose, eds., Family Capitalism (London, 1993), 151.

85. On the international context see, Oliver M. Westall, "The Competitive Environment of British Business, 1850-1914" in Kirby and Rose, Business Enterprise in Modern Britain, 207-35.

86. See, Harold Perkin, The Rise of Professional Society (London, 1991).
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