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Women of substance

#ICB100Women celebrates the Representation of the People Act centenary. PQ decided to profile some of these inspiring bookkeepers

October 2018

In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave (some) women the vote for the first time. In this the centenary year the
Institute of Certified Bookkeepers decided to honour 100 inspiring and influential women bookkeepers. Here are some of their stories…
It only seems right and fitting to start with
Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the British Suffragette movement and champion for votes for women. Not a lot of people know this, but long before becoming a political activist she attended school in Paris where she was taught bookkeeping. In her autobiography ‘My Own Life’ she explains: “The school was under the direction of Marchef Girard, a woman who believed that girls’ education should be quite as thorough as the education of boys… she included chemistry and other sciences in the course, and in addition to embroidery she had her girls taught bookkeeping.”
This wonderfully put together list includes
Nannie Helen Burroughs, an African-American civil rights activist, feminist and businesswoman.
From 1890 to 1908 she worked as the editorial secretary and bookkeeper for the National Baptist Convention. We are told that Burroughs helped found the Women’s Convention, the female arm of the NBC, and delivered a speech at the first Baptist World Alliance meeting in London called ‘Women’s part in the world’s work’. She later founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington DC.
Also on the list is Elizabeth Arden, who
dropped out of nursing school and worked in Manhattan as a bookkeeper for ER Squibb Pharmaceuticals Company. It was here that Arden learned about skincare and Elizabeth Arden Cosmetics (now worth an estimated $1.3bn) soon followed. She famously gave out red lipstick to the New York suffragettes marching on Fifth Avenue in 1912. Her ‘Red Door’ lipstick shade soon became a symbol of unity and strength for the movement.
There are, of course, modern-day champions on the list, including Julie Austen and Steph Busby. Austen’s Bookkeepers in Buckingham (BiB) is a family-run business that looks to help family-run businesses. They have been multiple winners of the ICB’s ‘Luca’ Awards.
Meanwhile, Busby’s earliest memories are of her watching her mum complete manual
double-entry journals as part of running her own business. After a career in industry and starting a family she decided she wanted to be her own boss, just like her mum. She enrolled with the
ICB and was soon opening her own bookkeeping practice.
Check out http://www.bookkeepers.org.uk for more great inspiring stories about ‘women who bookkeep’.

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