Women entrepreneurs and self-employed business-owners in Ireland 1922-1972
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This study set out to examine the prevalence of women entrepreneurs and self-employed business owners in Ireland in the early years of the Irish Free State. The historiography of Irish women has largely focussed on women as employees and workers, women's role within the home, the women's movement and women's contribution to the political life of the country. Little research has been conducted on Irish women as business owners and an impression prevailed that when women were involved in business ownership, it was more often as a result of widowhood, not as a result of their own endeavours. The research involved an analysis of National data sources the Census of Population, the Dissolved company files and some of the records of the Companies Registrations Office. This produced a comprehensive set of data which indicated the level to which women were involved as business owners and self-employed workers. It also highlighted the business sectors women operated in. A number of oral histories were conducted and these have supplemented the figures and provided valuable insights into the lived experiences of Irish business women at the time. The thesis demonstrates that women did proactively establish and run business in Ireland in the early to mid-20th Century. Their motivations were varied and they were not a homogenous group. They operated in all sectors, but were concentrated in retailing, the hospitality sector and in textile and clothing manufacturing. They were proactive agents of economic activity and some had significant influence in their regions and beyond. The numbers engaged as business owners and self-employed workers declined towards the latter part of the period and possible reasons for this are explored. Ultimately, the findings challenge the received wisdom of the widowed business woman as guardian of the family business.