Abstract: The Business of Domesticity: Women Shopkeepers and the Atlantic Textile Trade in the Age of Homespun

Danielle C. Skeehan


In the late 1760s, as non-importation and non-consumption agreements circulated in cities such as Boston, the appearance of women and the interior spaces of their homes became important indexes of a family's political and financial commitment to Republicanism. In this setting, advertisements for textiles and women's clothing shared space in newspapers with a rising number of condemnations of the "woman of fashion" and the female consumer. With the politicization of imported cloth, women were called upon to produce their own "homespun" cloth. Despite the enduring appeal of these homespun heroines, the high volume of advertisements for shops carrying women's clothing and domestic goods attests to the fact that women continued to participate in Revolutionary-era marketplaces as shopkeepers, consumers, milliners, and domestics. This paper asks: what might an examination of the production, circulation, and consumption of textiles bring to a study of women and their homes in the mid-eighteenth century Atlantic world? Moreover, what types of networks might the textile trade establish among women—both in North America and Great Britain? In this context, I argue, women shopkeepers helped North Americans imagine their place within a larger Atlantic world.