Heroines-Elleanor_EldridgeRemembering African American Heroines
African American Women Entrepreneurs

Elleanor Eldridge (1784-1845) Duke University, Rare Books, Manuscripts and special Collections

Take a look at the African American businessmen and businesswomen who paved the way for today’s African American billionaires, CEOs and Corporate Executives.

It is perhaps unremarkable to say that African American women’s participation in business developed slowly since Africans first began arriving in North America in the sixteenth century. However, when one considers the terrible lagacy of slavery and the travesty of the Jim Crow era, and the continuing struggle for African AMericans, it is striking to note that even before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, African American women had become successful businesswomen despite that for centuries the United States had been pro-white males.

African Americans in history showed an entrepreneurial spirit. Elleanor Eldridge worked as a laundress at age 10 following the death of her mother. Drawing on her housekeeeping skills, she and her sister opened a business in Warwick, RI, weaving, nursing and making soap. Realizing that investment and versatility were the key to success, she used the profits form her ventures and bought land and built a house, which she rented for $40 per year. Wall Street refers to this type of investing as “Index Investing”, becuase there is no investment advisor to pay and the investor gets to keeep all the profits.

After three years, she contracted herself out for whitewashing, wallpapering, painting during warm months, laundering and miscellaneous work for private families, hotels and boarding houses during the winter.

Elleanor Eldridge made her mark in the community as an entrepreneurial force, her work was high praised and she was much repected.