Race, class, gender and social entrepreneurship: extending the positionality of icons

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5 Scopus citations


Purpose: This paper aims to add information on how women's voices enriched American social entrepreneurship in the Progressive era. While most discussions of women as social entrepreneurs have centered on white middle class women, this article profiles two female agents for change and innovation who came out of the white working class and Boston's Black elite, respectively. These additions provide an analysis of female participation that takes account of issues of intersectionality and positionality, important concepts in contemporary critical theory. Design/methodology/approach: This article extends our understanding of women's role as social entrepreneurs in the early twentieth century by offering biographies of Rose Schneiderman and Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin based on extensive examination of sources from Progressive era documents to contemporary scholarly analyses. Inclusion of Progressive era sources enables the narrative to suggest how these social entrepreneurs were viewed in their own day. Findings: Biographies of Rose Schneiderman and Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin indicate the broad range of women who developed new organizations to serve traditionally marginalized populations in the Progressive era. The article shows the types of obstacles each woman faced; it enumerates strategies they used to further their aims as well as recording some of the times they could not surmount class- or race-based obstacles placed in their paths. Originality/value: At a time when issues of intersectionality and positionality have become more prominent in management discourse, this article expands the class and race backgrounds of women specifically proposed as icons of social entrepreneurship. It represents an early attempt to link these concepts with the study of entrepreneurship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)476-490
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Management History
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 24 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • History


  • Gender
  • Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin
  • Rose Schneiderman
  • Social entrepreneurship


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