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Boss Lady How Three Women Entrepreneurs Built Successful Big Businesses in the Mid-Twentieth Century by Edith Sparks

Boss Lady How Three Women Entrepreneurs Built Successful Big Businesses in the Mid-Twentieth Century

Part of the The Luther H. Hodges Jr. and Luther H. Hodges Sr. Series on Business, Entrepreneurship, and Public Policy Series


Boss Lady How Three Women Entrepreneurs Built Successful Big Businesses in the Mid-Twentieth Century by Edith Sparks

Too often, depictions of women's rise in corporate America leave out the first generation of breakthrough women entrepreneurs. Here, Edith Sparks restores the careers of three pioneering businesswomen--Tillie Lewis (founder of Flotill Products), Olive Ann Beech (cofounder of Beech Aircraft), and Margaret Rudkin (founder of Pepperidge Farm)--who started their own manufacturing companies in the 1930s, sold them to major corporations in the 1960s and 1970s, and became members of their corporate boards. These leaders began their ascent to the highest echelons of the business world before women had widespread access to higher education and before there were federal programs to incentivize women entrepreneurs or laws to prohibit credit discrimination. In telling their stories, Sparks demonstrates how these women at once rejected cultural prescriptions and manipulated them to their advantage, leveraged familial connections, and seized government opportunities, all while advocating for themselves in business environments that were not designed for women, let alone for women leaders.By contextualizing the careers of these hugely successful yet largely forgotten entrepreneurs, Sparks adds a vital dimension to the history of twentieth-century corporate America and provides a powerful lesson on what it took for women to succeed in this male-dominated business world.


Points out, soberingly, that many of the obstacles faced by this trio of pioneers still stand in the way of women in business.--Financial Times

About the Author

Edith Sparks is associate professor of history at University of the Pacific.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th April 2017


Edith Sparks

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The University of North Carolina Press


304 pages


Industrialisation & industrial history
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000




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