Embroidery, business enterprise and philanthropic ventures in nineteenth century Britain
In the nineteenth century a new form of needlework 'Art Embroidery' fuelled entrepreneurial ventures. The significance of these ventures will be explored and the contribution made by women employed in this industry, investigating their prevalent working practices and relating this to our understanding of gender history. The embroidery ventures stimulated the commercial side of embroidery in the late nineteenth century, mobilising commercial activity through numerous agencies, department stores, depots and charitable institutions. Embroidery took on the form of a major commercial enterprise, and in examining these important developments, the thesis will evaluate the organisational structure of these enterprises, their marketing techniques and their relationship to their predominantly female workforce. The theme of business enterprise is the conduit which runs throughout, yet it is not intended as an economic history, rather business history as social history. The growth and development of 'Art Embroidery' in Britain circa 1870-1890 will be explored giving special consideration to the support received from the art establishment in designing for and educating embroiderers. The art fraternity promoted embroidery as a commodity providing income for women. Finally the thesis will examine the decline of the embroidery business in the British Isles, as work was sent overseas where labour was cheaper. The thesis will make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the embroidery business, the dynamics shaping its development and the role of women employed in the industry. In particular the thesis will reveal the economic significance of the embroidery business to female employment in the nineteenth century, which has been hidden from view, mainly due to employing outworkers, a hidden workforce. Though a social history, the thesis will demonstrate this hidden workforce made a contribution to the British economy.