Abstract: Nationalism, Entrepreneurship, and Gender in Palestine and Israel, 1930-1950

Talia Pfefferman


The paper addresses womens' entrepreneurship within a nation-building process. Focusing on British Mandate Palestine during the first half of the twentieth century as an economic frontier, it claims that the British government's non-interventionist economic policy maintained a market with little economic legislation, whereas the nascent local economy set low financial entry barriers to entrepreneurship. As a result, women wishing to enter into economic entrepreneurship met myriad opportunities.After the founding of the Israeli state in 1948, the interventionist economic policy of the state promoted private entrepreneurship to suit national priorities, which favored large-scale enterprises. In addition, because of gender role stereotypes, women were limited in their ability to raise capital through banks. These barriers resulted in a situation where women entrepreneurs were marginalized into small-scale enterprises located mainly in the service sector. Their share among proprietors dropped from 4% to under 2%. The economic frontier became a borderline. This process demonstrates the dependency between individual actions and state policy as far as womens' economic entrepreneurship is concerned.