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Cover of Women's History Review

Women's History Review

Volume 22, Issue 6, Dec 2013
Pages 877-903

  • DOI: 10.1080/09612025.2013.780844
  • Print ISSN: 0961-2025
  • Online ISSN: 1747-583X

Pomeroy v. Pomeroy: beauty, modernity, and the female entrepreneur in fin-de-siècle London

As a fictional personality trading as ‘Mrs Pomeroy’, Jeannette Scalé dominated London's elite beauty market through the late nineteenth century. By 1906, her control over the expansive commercial empire had collapsed, as new company owners publicly accused her of pecuniary ambitions unbefitting her sex. This article charts Scalé's extraordinary transformation into London's leading complexion specialist, exploring the gender conventions regulating both the beauty business and middle-class female enterprise at the fin de siècle. An investigation of the ‘Mrs Pomeroy’ character reveals businesswomen's changing opportunities in England's ‘modernizing’ retail market, opportunities engendered through new systems of advertising, growing anonymity in the expanding urban scene, and novel forms of self-representation that did not necessarily impinge upon businesswomen's respectability.