Historically, women with money have been invisible. Before the Married Women's Property Act of 1882, married women could not legally possess their own wealth (unless it was held in trust). During the nineteenth century there were a few, very visible, women who were very rich but the majority of those who possessed wealth of one kind or another were prosperous upper class women living on incomes provided by their families, or middle class women engaged in managing finances or running businesses. These women possessed or obtained money and looked after it themselves, often experiencing social disapproval or legal difficulties. They are often overlooked by historians of business. This projects aims to examine women who invested in companies (limited or unlimited) during the nineteenth century and in doing so participated in the significant economic movements of this era.
With Professor P. L. Cottrell (University of Leicester), this research into female investors in the nineteenth century initially examined women shareholders in early (unlimited) joint stock banks. It is currently examining gender in the shareholdings of industrial firms in Sheffield and Liverpool in order to compare shareholding patterns between the two regions. In examining female investors the project explores some key themes:
- The occupations of female shareholders
- The risks involved in investing in limited but especially unlimited companies.
- The extent to which women could make investment decisions for themselves
- The number of women investors and the impact they had upon companies and investment patterns. Were female investors important contributors to domestic economic growth in the nineteenth century through their participation in share markets?
'Company legislation in nineteenth century Britain', J. Maltby and J. Rutterford (eds) Women and Money, 1700-1900 (Routledge, 2008) (with P. L. Cottrell).
Lucy Newton and P. L. Cottrell, 'Female investors in the first English and Welsh commercial joint-stock banks', Accounting Business and Financial History, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2006, pp. 315-340.