Women Entrepreneurs and Urban Expansion: Manchester 1760–1820 *
Like those of other northern towns, traditional accounts of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Manchester focus strongly on industrialisation. In descriptions of Manchester’s industrial revolution, changes in the organisational structure of manufacturing loom large, with the move to the factory-system taking centre-stage for both social and economic historians alike. Clearly the history of women’s involvement in factory-based work and in innovative methods of industrial production is important. Indeed, as Maxine Berg has suggested, examining the role of female labour in newer progressive manufacturing sectors is probably crucial to a fuller understanding of industrial development in Britain. There is evidence of widespread female economic activity in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Manchester, although the sources available to historians to trace the lives of women in trade, service industry and small-scale manufacturing are neither plentiful nor full.