The top influental business women in business history are often credited with breaking barriers, being a trailblazer, and paving the way for other women to follow in their footsteps. However, many of these women are not just the latest in this trend. Some of the world’s most powerful female leaders can be traced back to ancient times, including Queen Hatshepsut who ruled Egypt for 20 years in the 14th century BCE. Other influential female leaders in history include the first female head of government in 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, Margaret Thatcher in the UK, and Angela Merkel in Germany.
The Dutch-born Margaret Hardenbroeck arrived in New Amsterdam in 1659 with a job lined up, collecting debts for her cousin’s business. She continued working after her marriage to Pieter de Vries and became a business agent for a number of Dutch merchants. She sold cooking oil and furs to colonists and helped them send their money back home.
After her husband died, Margaret Hardenbroeck took over his business, which involved trading cooking oil between the colonies and Holland. She expanded the business, bought her own ship, and amassed a significant real estate portfolio. Margaret Hardenbroeck died in 1691 as the wealthiest woman in New York.
The late Rebecca Lukens was a pioneer in the industry. She became the first woman to become the CEO of a large industrial company. Her company, Brandywine Iron Works, was the leading manufacturer of boiler plates. She was a savvy businesswoman and an assertive leader who cultivated relationships with suppliers.
While she was a successful businesswoman, she also faced numerous obstacles in her career. For example, her mother did not fully support her decision to run the ironworks and so she had to care for her children alone. However, Rebecca managed to strike a balance between taking care of her family and running her business. She realized that both were important.
Lukens was born into a Quaker family and spent her early years shadowing her father, who ran a mill in Coatesville. During her teenage years, she attended school and worked alongside her father in the business. After her husband died, she inherited the business and eventually took over the business. Despite her declining health, she managed to build the company.
Lydia Pinkham was an innovative businesswoman. She used newspaper advertising as a way to spread her Schedule Text SMS & Message about her company’s products. She even mortgaged her house to advertise in the city. The result was a huge ad campaign that lasted for decades.
The company thrived even after Lydia died in 1883. Her son, Charles, continued the company. At the time, the company was making $300,000 a year in sales. It also went through a few bumps in the road, such as a conflict with the company’s advertising agent. However, the company never lost its momentum, and its products became one of the most advertised patent medicines in the United States in the 1890s.
Lydia Pinkham’s medicine company was one of the first to use innovative advertising techniques to attract customers. It featured Lydia’s portrait on product labels and encouraged women to write to her about their problems. This practice helped her establish a “woman-to-woman” relationship with her customers. These letters were published in the company’s Pinkham Pamphlets and included medical advice from Lydia herself. The company made a promise to Pinkham’s customers that no man would ever read the letters they sent her.
Anna Sutherland Bissell
Anna Sutherland Bissell is one of America’s most renowned businesswomen. She was a progressive businesswoman who was responsible for bringing progressive labor policies to the workplace. These included fixed working hours, annual leaves, workmen’s compensation insurance, pension plans, and more. She also earned a reputation as a motherly figure who cared deeply for her workers. She worked to create a company culture that encouraged employee satisfaction.
Bissell was a hands-on executive and was active in several civic and philanthropic organizations. She established Bissell House, a nonprofit organization for women, and was also on the board of the D.A. Blodgett Home for children. Her philanthropic activities enabled her to maintain a balance between a family and a career. This trait was also evident when she took over her company.