October is National Women’s Small Business Month! If you know me, you know I’m super passionate about helping women start and grow their businesses, so I love that this is a nationally recognized thing.
In honor of this month, I thought I’d highlight some amazing female entrepreneurs in history. I’m so thankful for all the hard work they put in. They’ve inspired me and millions of others to go after our own goals. Here are three historical businesswomen I really admire:
1. Mary Katharine Goddard
Born in Connecticut in 1738, she grew up learning the printing business from her family and eventually moved to Baltimore. While there, not only did she take over running the city’s first newspaper, the Maryland Journal and the Baltimore Advertiser, but she also became the first postmaster of Baltimore and the first female postmaster in the colonies and then the U.S. How cool is that?
Mary later ran a combination printing office, bookstore and post office where she printed Congressional resolutions and notices, plus the Declaration of Independence—the first version to include the names of most of the signers. In fact, her name appears on that printed document. As someone who’s had my work printed and published, I’m super grateful for the legacy she left.
2. Annie Turnbo Malone
You might already be familiar with Madam C. J. Walker, recognized as the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S. She achieved amazing success as a developer of hair products and founder of Lelia College. But did you know that earlier in her life, she attended a cosmetics school and sold a line of beauty products founded by another entrepreneurial black woman named Annie Turnbo Malone?
Annie was born in Illinois in 1869. She had a passion for chemistry and hair care and built a successful business after creating products to improve hair health. In 1902, she moved to Missouri and founded Poro College Company. Poro was both a training center and a line of hair and cosmetic products that provided jobs for thousands of men and women (including Madam C. J. Walker). By the 1920s, Annie’s brand had grown so much that she was incredibly wealthy—and donated a lot of her money to philanthropic causes and institutions. I’m so inspired by the creativity and drive of both of these entrepreneurs!
3. Margaret Rudkin
Next time you’re giving goldfish crackers to your kids, just know you have Margaret Rudkin to thank. It all started in Fairfield, Connecticut in 1937 when she baked a loaf of bread to help find a solution for her son’s allergies to other breads. Her son’s health improved, and soon, his doctor was asking for loaves for his other patients. Margaret’s bakery expanded and eventually became Pepperidge Farm, which was wildly successful throughout World War II and beyond for its breads, cookies and (of course) goldfish crackers. In 2007, Fortune Magazine even declared her the most powerful woman in business for the years 1950–1960!
This story makes me smile because when I was growing up, my mom also had her own business as a baker. She made cakes instead of bread, and her products might not be found in every grocery store, but she and Margaret share the same work ethic and loving mom heart.
If you have your own business idea, I hope these women’s stories will encourage you to go for it. For more tips on starting and growing a business, check out this article. Happy National Women’s Small Business Month!
Christy Wright is a #1 national best-selling author, personal development expert, and host of The Christy Wright Show. She’s been featured on Today Show and Fox News, and in Entrepreneur and Woman’s Day Magazines. Since 2009, Christy has served at Ramsey Solutions, where she teaches on personal development, business, and faith. Follow Christyon Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube or online at christywright.com.