Abstract

Joining Separate Fields & Separate Spheres in Business History

(Individual abstract for roundtable) Scholarship on female entrepreneurs in nineteenth-century Latin America remains on the margins while similar investigations situated in the United States and Europe have rapidly expanded in the recent historiography. This presentation considers the challenges and opportunities of representing a minor field of business history within a larger collaboration on global female entrepreneurship. Though my specific research focuses on businesswomen in Brazil, it frequently relies upon the methods and theoretical frameworks of scholars in the fields of U.S. and European History. My scholarly dialogues became an actual conversation when I joined the twenty-member team of historians working on global female entrepreneurship in the long nineteenth-century. The two-day workshop to prepare our edited volume was both a rewarding and challenging opportunity that reflected many of the debates over the history of businesswomen explicitly and the field of business history more broadly. For example, the analytical lens of separate spheres is a useful tool for understanding how female entrepreneurs navigated the social and legal norms of Brazil's highly patriarchal society but many of my co-authors studying the North Atlantic felt this framework often produced conclusions that were trite and counter-productive. My presentation considers how scholarly collaboration in business history can complicate traditional narratives and deepen conclusions on female entrepreneurship, the role of gender in business, and the balance of national, local, and global market trends. Beyond these issues that move the field of business history forward, I also address the relationship of collaboration and professional development by highlighting various ways that team efforts can provide mentorship and scholarship opportunities that belie the single-author book tradition of the discipline but can be crucial in advancing individual careers and general academic pursuits.