In 2015 Catherine Bishop's book, Minding her own business: Colonial businesswomen in Sydney, was published. In this work the author attempts to dismiss the theory that women were only background figures in Colonial Sydney with activities confined to minding the home and family. In fact, she has discovered that women ran many of the businesses in the colony, although this has become lost in history.
Women in business in Colonial Australia should not be a surprise. By just looking through
lists of colonial publican licensees it is apparent that many publicans were
female. Catherine Bishop looks at many businesses in early Sydney which
were run and usually owned by women. Sometimes they worked in
partnership with their husbands but often the businesses were run by
females, sometimes for several generations. Creating fashionable clothes
for the ladies of the colony was one industry where women excelled.
However women also ran schools for girls, some ran boarding houses while
some worked in retail and the food industry. Women were also entertainers and writers.
Sometimes women were forced to
work to support their family when their husband died or if his business
failed. It was not unusual for women to run their own business independent of their
husband's business interests. However there are also cases of women taking over the family business after the death of their husband. The new colony had provided the opportunity for
economic independence for a number of women.
Over time, however, the achievements of these women have been forgotten. Catherine Bishop 's study attempts to rectify this situation.