Minding Her Own Business – Colonial business women

Historian Catherine Bishop will be speaking about Colonial business women in Sydney at the next Hawkesbury Family History on Wednesday 11 May at 10am.

There are few memorials to colonial businesswomen, but if you know where to look you can find many traces of their presence as you wander the streets of Sydney. From milliners and dressmakers to ironmongers and booksellers; from publicans and boarding-house keepers to butchers and taxidermists; from school teachers to ginger-beer manufacturers: these women have been hidden in the historical record but were visible to their contemporaries.

Catherine Bishop brings the stories of these entrepreneurial women to life, with fascinating details of their successes and failures, their determination and wilfulness, their achievements, their tragedies and the occasional juicy scandal. Until now we have imagined colonial women indoors as wives, and mothers, domestic servants or prostitutes. Her research on this topic was published in ‘Minding Her Own Business’ by New South Publishers last year and sets the businesswomen firmly out in the open. Examples include Elizabeth Gold who managed a plumbing business after her husband’s death and was awarded tenders by the City of Sydney in the 1830s. Rita Macnamara was a carcass butcher in Sydney in the 1860s and apparently wielded the meat cleaver very professionally.

Anyone interested in local and family history is welcome to attend this free event at Hawkesbury Library, 300 George Street, Windsor. There is no need to book. Refreshments are served after the meeting.

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