A Gendered Enterprise: Placing Nineteenth-Century Businesswomen in History

Readers who perused a 1904 issue of the Atlantic Monthly encountered an article with the intriguing title of “The Small Business as a School of Manhood.” Largely a diatribe against the growing dominance of large corporations, it lamented the presumably inevitable passing of smaller concerns. Curiously, its author, Henry A. Stimson, placed relatively little emphasis on the economic or even the political consequences of this development. Rather, he worried that the new order, which reduced would-be entrepreneurs to the status of corporate employees, represented “the loss of something fine in manhood.” Men who inhabited the newly-created ranks of middle and upper management might lead prosperous lives but faced the loss of their selfrespect, their dignity, their “intellectual stamina.” As Stimson saw it, they had been emasculated by the rise of the corporation.