Abstract: An Early Modern Supply Chain: The Roles of Women in the Beaver Trade from Procurers to Consumers

Kim Todt


This paper examines women's participation in the beaver trade in New Netherland and the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century, undertaking a supply chain analysis. Supply chain activities typically transform natural resources into a finished product delivered to the end consumer. This paper challenges traditional, highly gendered historiographic notions of colonial women and Native American women. The first part of the paper examines Native American women who acted as intermediaries for their nations with New Netherland traders. The second part considers the Dutch women who traded for furs from Native Americans. Dutch women participated extensively in commerce in New Netherland, and I will explain why this was extensive and widely accepted. The third section extends the supply chain across the Atlantic and focuses on merchant houses of Amsterdam active in transatlantic trade with New Netherland and the role women played as merchants in patria. These "she-merchants" sold beavers to the furriers and hatters who produced the fur-lined outerwear and felt hats and, further along in the supply chain, acted as retail suppliers of the finished products. The supply chain concludes with the women who wore beaver and their role in an early modern consumer culture influenced by fashion.