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New exhibition reveals the female entrepreneurs running luxury City firms in the 18th century

From 21 September – 18 October 2019, anyone walking through the City will discover an unfamiliar history of female entrepreneurship. Around seventy business cards belonging to women in the 1700s will be displayed on giant panels close to where they ran their firms.

The exhibition’s curator, University of Cambridge historian Dr Amy Louise Erickson, says: “There was nothing unusual about these businesswomen at the time. They were members of trade families and it was normal for women to be in charge. This history has been completely overlooked.”

Dr Amy Erickson and Dr Alex Wakelam
Dr Amy Erickson and Dr Alex Wakelam in front of the exhibition in Paternoster Square, London. Photo © Graham CopeKoga.

The exhibition features Mary and Ann Hogarth, sisters of the artist William Hogarth: he designed their business card when they moved to new premises in 1730. The sisters sold fabrics and readymade clothes, as well as supplying the uniforms for Christ’s Hospital School which educated the orphaned children of City freemen.

Other intriguing business cards in the exhibition include those of the milliner and haberdasher Martha Wheatland; the whalebone seller Elizabeth Bowen; and the wax chandler Hannah Jones. Jones succeeded her husband in 1749 and was still in business over thirty years later when she was supplying candles to Magdalene College in Cambridge and the Duke of Bedford’s London residence.

The ‘City Women in the 18th Century’ trail will stretch from Paternoster Square and along the 700-metre length of Cheapside and Poultry to the Royal Exchange in the east.

Discover more about City Women in the 18th Century at: or read more about the exhibition at:

Exhibition location Map:

City Women exhibition locations