Benefiting from the ‘comforts of ease & afluence’: The experience of female business retirement in the diary of Sarah Florry

01 Dec 2017

This article examines the unpublished autobiography/diary of a late eighteenth-century Birmingham based businesswoman to explore the phenomenon of female retirement in this period. Despite plentiful recent research on the regularity of female business ownership in the eighteenth-century there have been little to no examinations of how such businesses ended, other than where they went bankrupt. Such a vacuum of scholarship has reinforced a despondent image of elderly women in this period. Without denying that old age for many could be arduous, this research shows that, where independent women were able to successfully manage finances and commercial enterprise, retirement could be enacted on their own terms. Subsequently, the enjoyment of retirement could be largely dependent upon continued socialisation to avoid boredom and loneliness, particularly in the case of unmarried women.