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``She is the man of the concern'': Entrepreneurial women in the Ohio Valley, 1790--1860

Purdue University
Publication Date
  • History
  • United States|Women'S Studies|Economics
  • History
  • Economics


This study traces the interaction of market forces and gender ideology across time in the Ohio Valley (the geographic area that includes the present states of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana) to discover how women came to view themselves as players in a marketplace that social ideology defined as lying outside their sphere. From the beginning of settlement women had embraced various market activities to support themselves and their families; eventually they came to view the market--which was then defined as male, but controlled by no one--as a potential arena for self-definition and self-determination. Most of these women did not amass large estates or command the operation of large manufactories, and most contended at the same time with the demands of family, work, and community activities. What is remarkable is that even as the market revolution made commercial activity less personal and more coldly contractual, women recognized its power to foster personal independence, and they demanded a place for themselves in the emerging economic order. ^

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