The Power of Wives of Merchant Families

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Yasuyo ARAKI , Kwanseigakuin University, Katanoshi, Japan
In this presentation I will describe the wives of merchants in Osaka and the changes they underwent with the modernization of the merchant business.The Osaka area had been the center of business in Japan. Osaka has been known for commerce since in the 16th century. Many people had come to Osaka to be merchants from about the 17th century to the middle of 20th.

Traditionally, the wives of the Osaka merchants had great influence and considerable power in the management of the family business. In Osaka merchant stores, the merchants’ families lived with their employees, and the workspace was also the living space. The wives of merchants had the role of caring for, disciplining, and managing the boy apprentices both in the house and the store. Especially, the women’s role of providing discipline to make the apprentices good merchants was very important for the family business. These relationships between the wives of merchants and the employees continued for a long time. Under these circumstances, it seems inevitable that women took on a dominant role in the management of the house, as well as the store. It was this merchant family system that gave them much power.

The merchants in the Osaka area continued to operate under this family business system for a period of twenty years after the end of the Second World War.However, as the merchants adapted to economic development, along with democratization and rationalization after the war, they chose the modern management system of separating their homes from the store. Owners and employees began living separately, and the roles of the husband and wife changed with the husband working and the wife staying home. As the stores become larger, the wife stopped being involved in the business and instead focused on being a housewife.