“A Girl of Business:” Calicia Allaire at the Howell Iron Works

Mary Carroll Johansen


Countering the prevailing trends of the antebellum era that separated home and office and thereby placed most women firmly outside the sphere of commerce, Calicia Tompkins Allaire, wife of ironworks owner James P. Allaire, served as her husband’s deputy, helping to oversee the Howell Iron Works and surrounding farms. While James lived mostly in New York City, Calicia helped to manage his businesses in Monmouth County in the 1840s and 1850s; to assess his employees’ character and actions; and to devise new ways for the struggling enterprises to earn money. Referring to his wife in a letter as “a girl of business,” James P. Allaire wrote that he counted on her to “have it done right.” The small scale of the Howell Works, its character as an iron plantation with the family living onsite, and James Allaire’s strained relationship with his adult children made Calicia Allaire the obvious choice to serve as his assistant.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14713/njs.v3i1.68


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