In 1911, the migrant population had a higher rate of business proprietorship than the English- and Welsh-born population. Migrant women made an important contribution to the economy by providing both goods and services, and employment. Many of their businesses were small and in areas of the economy, such as dressmaking or food preparation and retail, often considered by historians to be less important than industrial production.
However, small and medium enterprises formed the majority of all businesses and were vital to the Edwardian economy. Migrant entrepreneurs had many similar characteristics to their English- and Welsh-born contemporaries; what determined differences between the two groups were the different structural conditions they experienced, particularly the labour market conditions.
As outlined in the previous blog, a migrant is identified as someone born outside of the UK. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the migrant businesswomen were born in Europe (55%). The next largest group came from the Russian empire making up approximately 25% of the stock of migrant women who owned their enterprises on census date in 1911.
The remaining 20% of the women migrant entrepreneurs were born in North America (6%), Asia (5%), Australia and New Zealnd (4%), Africa (1.5%), Caribbean (1%), and reamining from the Middle East and Latin America.
It is important to point out that those identified as coming from Africa (mostly South Africa and Egypt), Asia (mostly India) and the Caribbean, most of them were born in what were at the time British colonies. Many of those arriving into the UK were likely to be children of the British officials who were posted in the Colonies. It is difficult to gain more specificity on the race of these migrant women as that data was not collected in the census. In some cases, the team used the names of the women to identify if the women are are likely to be children of white settlers coming back into the UK. We recognise how problematic this, and that it is a limitation of this project.