Enterprising women: independence, finance and Virago Press, c.1976-1993

Withers, D-M (2019) Enterprising women: independence, finance and Virago Press, c.1976-1993. Twentieth Century British History. ISSN 0955-2359

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Virago Press were established in 1972 and became one of the twentieth century’s most enduring publishing brands. As a women-led enterprise, articulations of independence have defined key moments in Virago’s history. This article explores two moments when the company re-structured as independent, in 1976 and 1987. To become successful, Virago had to overcome barriers that have historically hindered women’s participation in business, namely limited social capital and difficulties accessing finance. Virago founder Carmen Callil’s friendships with publisher Paul Hamlyn and printing entrepreneur Robert Gavron embedded Virago in networks of male entrepreneurial knowledge that helped shape the evolution of the company. Such networks were vital to Virago securing investment from Rothschilds Ventures Limited in 1987 who were, at that time, leading figures in the UK’s growing private equity industry. This article contributes to growing historical understanding of the synergies between financial, arts and culture industries in the 80s. It argues that while this era offered new opportunities for women to participate in business, such participation was tempered by new forms of legal and financial discipline that re-calibrated existing gender inequalities within business cultures. Due to the time periods under consideration, this article also analyses how entrepreneurial practices and opportunities for women changed dramatically with the onset of Thatcher’s ‘Enterprise Culture’.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Virago, Feminist Business, Feminist Publishing, Enterprise, Private Equity, Finance, Independence
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: D History > DA History of Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HC Economic history and conditions
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HG Finance > HG4501 Investment, capital formation, speculation
P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary history
Depositing User: D-M Withers
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2019 08:33
Last Modified: 29 Dec 2021 02:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/88235

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
The business of women's words: Purpose and profit in feminist publishingG2179LEVERHULME TRUSTRPG-2017-218