3 Pioneering Women in American Business

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.

Culture isn’t always pretty, and like almost everything else in human life, it evolves. At one time or another in every corner of the planet, almost every imaginable grouping of people has faced unfairness, unequal treatment, legal and institutional discrimination, or outright persecution. As we learn to reject the unwarranted prejudice that springs from collectivist stereotypes or primitive dogmas, we recognize that every individual is unique. He (or she) deserves to be judged by the content of his character and to pursue his dreams in the marketplace of free exchange.

America in its first century offered more liberty to more people than any other place in the world, but there was still plenty of room for improvement. It took decades, but we eventually ended the ancient evil of race-based slavery. Decades later, Jim Crow laws were abolished. Pick any immigrant group — Catholics, Irish, Chinese — and to a considerable extent, we’ve come to see that once-widespread prejudice against them prevented everyone else from enjoying the benefits of their productivity. We’ve made progress, lots of it, toward the ideal of unshackling peaceful people from the chains of injustice and intolerance.

The philosophy of liberty appeals to me because it says to all people, regardless of race, religion, place of birth, or sex, “If you want to dream, create, build, own, grow, or improve, go for it!”

FEE’s founder Leonard Read expressed the credo of a free society when he called for “no man-concocted restraints against the release of peaceful, creative energy!”

In this Real Heroes essay, I turn our attention to three pioneering women in American business….