Women in economics that you won’t find in history books
Throughout our education we have learnt great people that have marked history by their findings or research. The vast majority of them are the names of men who have achieved success. What the books do not tell you is that many of these men have worked together with women, without whom their achievements would not have been possible
In all sectors of work we find women who have been made invisible simply because they are women. In many cases, their work has even been attributed to the figure of a man who has received all the recognition, and the world of economics is no exception. We want to shine a light on these women who have been left in the shadows and vindicate their contribution to history.
- Beatrice Webb
From an early age, Beatrice had many intellectual interests and was very interested in socialist ideas as a result of the revolutionary ideas that were current at the time. She was born in 1858 in Gloucester, England, a time when the working class of the Industrial Revolution suffered indiscriminate exploitation by the bosses and families lived in misery. Driven by this context and her delicate health, Beatrice undertook a practically self-taught education with a strong focus on philosophy, science and literature.
In 1890 she met the socialist intellectual Sidney Webb, who later became her husband. Together they began to work on new theories by holding meetings with other socialist sympathisers where they would argue for hours on different subjects. In 1897 they published what was to be the most important work of their lives and a key instrument for understanding the non-Marxist socialist revolution in England, “Industrial Democracy”. They are credited with the idea of a state guaranteeing a decent life for its citizens, a term she herself called the house-keeping state. Although they formed a perfect tandem and worked together on different publications, only the name of her husband, Sydney Webb, went down in history as one of the most important social reformers in England.
- Anna Schwartz
If we mention the name Friedman, it is likely that we have heard of him or even recognise him as the father of monetarist theory. And he certainly contributed to the creation of his reputation, but he was helped by Anna Schwartz, a researcher who remained in the shadow of Friedman’s prestige. Born in New York in 1915, she spent much of her life working at the National Bureau of Economic Research in her native city. In 1963, however, her career took a leap forward with the publication of A Monetary History of the United States, 1867 to 1960, a work that came to light thanks to the joint research of Schwartz and Milton Friedman. The work marked the history of the US economy and is still today a benchmark for good economic management and how to avoid fluctuations at the national level.
Friedman was named as the founding father of monetarist theory, relegating Schwartz to second place. In 1976 she received the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work with Schwartz, but she received no mention in the committee or in the public sphere. Years later, British critics highlighted Schwartz’s research, claiming its importance in the development of the theory, but she did not receive recognition.
They are just two examples of women who have contributed to history but who, because they are women, have been relegated to the background, to the shadows. Now, with more resources than before and a more critical eye, we can dust off those figures who, despite having made their contribution, have been excluded from the history books.