Cover for GAMBER: The Female Economy: The Millinery and Dressmaking Trades, 1860-1930

The Female Economy

The Millinery and Dressmaking Trades, 1860-1930

Hemmed in by "women's work" much less than has been thought, women in the late 1800s and early 1900s were the primary entrepreneurs in the millinery and dressmaking trades.

The Female Economy explores that lost world of women's dominance, showing how independent, often ambitious businesswomen and the sometimes imperious consumers they served gradually vanished from the scene as custom production gave way to a largely unskilled modern garment industry controlled by men. Wendy Gamber helps overturn the portrait of wage-earning women as docile souls who would find fulfillment only in marriage and motherhood. She combines labor history, women's history, business history, and the history of technology while exploring topics as wide-ranging as the history of pattern-making and the relationship between entrepreneurship and marriage.

A volume in the series The Working Class in American History, edited by David Brody, Alice Kessler-Harris, David Montgomery, and Sean Wilentz, and in the series Women in American History, edited by Anne Firor Scott, Nancy A. Hewitt, and Stephanie Shaw

"Gamber's analysis is careful and nuanced, showing at every point the mixed impact of the processes of change in the lives of tradewomen and their customers. . . . A valuable contribution to women's labor, business, and social history as well as to the emerging history of consumption."--Susan Porter Benson, author of Counter Cultures: Saleswomen, Managers, and Customers in American Department Stores

Wendy Gamber is a member of the Department of History at Indiana University, Bloomington.

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