Exhibition | City Women in the 18th Century

Posted in exhibitions, on site by Editor on September 25, 2019

From the exhibition:

City Women in the 18th Century: An Outdoor Exhibition of Women Traders in Cheapside, London
Cheapside, London, 21 September — 18 October 2019

Curated by Amy Erickson

In the 18th century, many women worked in luxury manufacturing and sales in the Cheapside area between St Paul’s and the Royal Exchange. They were not only employed to make the clothing, jewellery, prints, fans, trunks and furniture on sale; they also ran some of the businesses. These women, all of whom were members of London’s livery companies, employed thousands more in their trades. Some of these elite employers produced highly ornamental trade cards to advertise their business. These represent only a fraction of all the business women trading over the 18th century. Others we know of through their printed products (e.g., Sarah Ashton, fanmaker), or an insurance policy (Eleanor Coade, merchant), or livery company records (Martha Gurney, printer).

Most of the surviving business cards are in two collections in the British Museum. The first collector was Sarah Sophia Banks (1744–1818). The sister of Joseph Banks, who collected items of natural history, she collected material relating to the social history of her own day. The second collector was Ambrose Heal (1872–1959), arts and crafts furniture designer and heir to Heal’s furniture shop which had been established in Tottenham Court Road since the 1850s. This outdoor exhibition, over a 700-metre trail, explores the important role of women in commerce and manufacturing in 18th-century City.

Amy Louise Erickson, the curator of the exhibition, is Reader in Economic History at the University of Cambridge, and the author of Women and Property in Early Modern England and articles on women trading in 18th-century London. Her current project is reconstructing female labour force participation in early modern Britain. She co-directs the ‘Occupational Structure of England and Wales, 1379–1911’ research programme at the Cambridge Group for the History of Population & Social Structure.

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In addition to the virtual exhibition, organized around eight sites, the exhibition includes the following programming:

Mary Owen, jeweller and goldsmith, printed her card as a widow in the mid-18th century. Her husband (dead by 1745) had also been a goldsmith, but was a member of the Fishmongers’ Company; as his widow, Owen traded as a member by courtesy.

Talk | City Women in the 18th Century
London Metropolitan Archives, 17 September, 14.00

Dr Amy Erickson, from the Faculty of History at the University Cambridge, will be discussing her exhibition, City Women in the 18th Century, at the London Metropolitan Archives.

Guided Tours
Paternoster Square, 29 September, 10.30; and 6 October, 15.00

Join Dr Amy Erickson on a tour of the exhibition. Booking required (29 September or 6 October).

Talk | Women in the Luxury Trades
Goldsmiths’ Centre in Clerkenwell, 19 November, 18.00

Learn about the women who traded as goldsmiths, silversmiths, milliners, fan-makers, and printers along the length of Cheapside, from Paternoster Square to the Royal Exchange, through their ornately engraved business cards. Further details.


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