Women in Business in Late Nineteenth-Century Chile: Class, Marital Status, and Economic Autonomy

Bernardita Escobar Andrae

This article analyzes Chilean women’s entrepreneurial activity in the 1877–1908 period examining two official data sources representing different socioeconomic business niches – the national trademark registry, which represents the elite among business people, and the Santiago business license registry, which includes the non-elite. The analysis reveals an economy with women engaging increasingly in business in an expanding range of sectors. By the 1890s, women managed nearly a quarter of Santiago’s firms and 5 percent of elite firms nationally. Widows appeared overrepresented among elite businesses and underrepresented among those of the non-elite. These results suggest that institutions constraining entrepreneurship among married women were more strongly enforced among the elite than among other social classes. The evidence thus suggests that during late nineteenth century there was an increase in the economic autonomy exercised by unmarried women and widows of all socioeconomic strata, but also by married women among the non-elite.

To view the full text of this article or book review, please see our instruction on accessing the publisher's website.