Women have torn down borders and cracked glass ceilings throughout history. Historically speaking, legal hurdles, social norms, and financial barriers have all posed a formidable challenge for women in business.
Before women were permitted the right to vote and before women were legally allowed to own land, women were significantly contributing to the success of businesses large and small. When the U.S. fought in raging wars, and the stock markets crashed, women saved the economy by going to work.
From iron mills in the 1800s to digital security corporations in the 21st century, women have shown that they can do anything. Passionate women have long been powerful in organizing change. Take a moment to read about and remember these few women in business history whose life and accomplishments should never be forgotten.
Rebecca Pennock Lukens (1784-1854)
Rebecca Lukens was one of the very first women in business. She purchased her father’s business after his death, birthed her sixth child, and turned a struggling iron company into a successful empire.
When the transportation revolution hit in the early 1800’s, Lukens’ iron was at the top of the list for steamboats and railroads. During the economic explosion, Rebecca also launched her own store, warehouse, and freight agency.
Bridget ‘Biddy’ Mason (1818-1891)
Biddy Mason was born to break the proverbial mold. Born into slavery, Mason fought and won her freedom (and the freedom of her three children), in the 1850s, after her owners moved to California (a free state).
Ten years after gaining her freedom, Bridget became one of the very first African American women to own her own piece of land. She purchased a commercial piece of property for $250, and from that, built her own real estate empire worth $300,000 by the year 1884.
Jane Addams (1860-1935)
Jane Addams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her contribution to society and social activism. More than her social contribution to the world, Addams was quite the genius at fundraising, statistical knowledge, and business management.
In 1889, Jane co-founded America’s very first settlement house for immigrant women, The Hull House. The facility aimed to educate women and children in subjects such as sewing, art, music, history, botany, and literature (among other subjects).
Katharine Meyer Graham (1917-2001)
The rise to the top for Katharine Meyer Graham gave new meaning to the waiting game. Katharine’s father bought the Washington Post at a bankruptcy auction in 1933, and later left the company to her alcoholic husband post mortem.
Shortly after inheriting the company, Philip Graham committed suicide. Katharine gained full ownership of The Washington Post, and since has worked tirelessly to develop one of the leading empires in mass media.
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