To celebrate Women in Small Business month, the Sun Journal will feature four women — one each week — who are owners and/or leaders of a company in the area. Some have taken on roles in businesses that were or still are traditionally dominated by men, while others are entrepreneurs.

According to the Small Business Administration, the first woman-owned business in the United States was recorded in 1739 when Eliza Lucas Pinckney took over her family’s plantations in South Carolina when she was 16 years old.

Anna Bissell is widely credited with being the first female CEO in the United States in 1889, when her husband, Melville, died. She took over the company he founded in 1883, the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Co.

Katharine Graham became the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company in 1972 when she was named to that position at the Washington Post newspaper, and Ursula Burns became the CEO of the Xerox Corp. in 2007, making her the first African American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

According to the website, Maine became the first U.S. state to allow married women to opt into a “separate economy” in 1844. The law allowed married women to earn their own income if they chose to, independently from their husbands.

Women could retain their earnings separately, and husbands were not permitted to demand access to the funds. However, traditional banking was not yet commonplace, and women could not hold bank accounts in their names.

Finally, it was the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, H.R. 5050, that gave women in this country the right to take out a loan without having a male relative as co-signer of the loan. The bill was signed into law by then-President Ronald Reagan.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.