Women Investors and the Virginia Company in the Early Seventeenth Century

Misha Ewen

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This article explores the role of women investors in the Virginia Company
during the early seventeenth century, arguing that women determined the success of English overseas expansion not just by ‘adventuring’ their person, but their purse. Trading companies relied on the capital of women, and yet in seminal work on Virginia Company investors women have received no attention at all. This is a significant oversight, as studying the women who invested in trading companies illuminates broader issues regarding the role of women in the early English empire. This article explores why and how two women from merchant backgrounds, Rebecca Romney (d. 1644) and Katherine Hueriblock (d. 1639), managed diverse, global investment portfolios in the period before the Financial Revolution. Through company records, wills, letters, court depositions, and a surviving church memorial tablet, it reconstructs Romney and Hueriblock’s interconnected interests in ‘New World’ ventures, including in Newfoundland, the North-West Passage Company, Virginia colony and sugar trade. Studying women investors reveals how trade and colonization shaped economic activity and investment practices in the domestic sphere and also elucidates how women, in their role as investors, helped give birth to an English empire.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-874
JournalThe Historical Journal
Issue number4
Early online date15 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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