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Women Mean Business: Colonial Businesswomen in NZ

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  • Tue 26 Nov, 5:30pm – 6:30pm


Te Ahumairangi Ground Floor, National Library, cnr Molesworth & Aitken Streets, Thorndon, Wellington


All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Free Admission

Friends of the Turnbull library lectures.

From Kaitaia in Northland to Oban on Stewart Island, New Zealand’s nineteenth-century towns were full of entrepreneurial women. Contrary to what we might expect, colonial women were not only wives and mothers or domestic servants.

A surprising number ran their own businesses, supporting themselves and their families, sometimes in productive partnership with husbands, but in other cases compensating for a spouse’s incompetence, intemperance, absence – or all three. Then, as now, there was no ‘typical’ businesswoman.

They were middle and working class; young and old; Māori and Pākehā; single, married, widowed and sometimes bigamists. Their businesses could be wild successes or dismal failures, lasting just a few months or a lifetimeAward-winning historian Dr Catherine Bishop showcases many of the individual businesswomen whose efforts, collectively, contributed so much to the making of urban life in New Zealand.

Speaker profile:
Born and raised in Whanganui, Dr Catherine Bishop has a postdoctoral fellowship at Macquarie University (2019-2021) for her project ‘A History of Australian Businesswomen Since 1880’, funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. In 2015 her first book Minding Her Own Business: Colonial Businesswomen in Sydney was published.

She was also the recipient of a New Zealand History Trust Award and won the Australian Women’s History Network Mary Bennett prize. Catherine is interested in heritage, particularly in the way women’s history has been memorialised. Her book Women mean business: colonial businesswomen in New Zealand was published by Otago University Press in 2019.

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