s1339 - Governing Women in Capitalism on Three Continents

Sunday, June 4, 2017: 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
RSVLT 108 (Hofstra University)
Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor, University of California, Davis
“I Am Yet Waitin’”: African American Women and the Freedman’s Bank
Shennette Garrett-Scott, University of Mississippi
Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor, University of California, Davis

Session Abstract

While praising “free markets” and competition, capitalists have always depended on states to determine who gets to compete and how. This workshop, sponsored by the Business History Conference, explores how government agencies, laws, and business codes have bolstered specifically gendered markets in constructing capitalism. We also demonstrate the methodological contributions that gender history brings to studies of business. Attention to the differential places accorded men and women in capitalism requires reckoning with the role of states in crafting key categories of economic life.

Kari Zimmerman’s paper on women’s patent applications in nineteenth-century Brazil argues that women used the protections of 1850’s Commercial Code to position themselves as entrepreneurs. Bernardita Escobar’s focus is also on patents, but in twentieth-century Chile women rarely received patents, maneuvering instead on the borders of state-protected security. Zimmerman and Escobar both find that gendered family claims framed access to patent protection and economic autonomy. Lindsay Keiter’s study of early South Carolina family trusts argues that increasingly sophisticated investments reinforced women’s economic subordination within marriage. Reconsidering family economic strategies and the state through another tool—U.S. Reconstruction Finance Corporation loans—Edie Sparks finds Great Depression-era government surprisingly receptive to marginal female building owners. In contrast, Shennette Garrett-Scott argues, black women after the Civil War faced exploitative informal and formal financial institutions that proved hostile to black women’s borrowing, saving, and investing Finally, Corinna Schlombs details what happens when entrepreneurs from one capitalist culture (IBM) are forced to confront a new state’s (Germany) legal structuring of gendered marketplaces.

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