New Perspectives: Reframing and Refocusing through Collaboration

Individual abstract for proposed roundtable: When I began my doctorate, I was one of only a handful of academics in the UK researching nineteenth-century businesswomen. Yet my research showed that female business owners could be just as successful as their male counterparts, and further examination of bankruptcy files revealed how they coped with adversity and financed their enterprises. Different jobs led to other projects, but I was brought back to businesswomen with an email from Australian historian Catherine Bishop, which simply said ‘are you the Jennifer Aston that looks at female business owners?’. We quickly developed a close working relationship and I joined her and Susan Ingalls Lewis at the 2017 ABH conference. Our conversations both in and out of the conference initially gave us – as relatively junior academics – an exciting first experience of a research community. However, as is perhaps our nature as historians, we soon began to pick holes in our satisfaction. Catherine and I began to try to find other scholars, with the intention of publishing the first volume to examine the experiences of nineteenth-century female entrepreneurs from across the globe. This process was difficult but eventually resulted in an international workshop and eighteen chapters published as Female Entrepreneurs in the Long Nineteenth Century. Again though, we realised more work was required, and together we established the Researching Women of Management and Enterprise Network (ReWOMEN) which connects scholars across business schools and humanities departments with stakeholders and policy makers to share key findings across four centuries of women’s management and enterprise activities. This global collaboration reinvigorated my research of nineteenth-century businesswomen and reframed it within an international context allowing it to speak directly to other scholars, as well as World Bank and governmental reports, thus giving it greater relevance, significance and impact.