Accounting histories of women:
Stephen P. Walker
Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
Purpose – This paper aims to make an assessment of the contribution made by accounting histories
of women produced since 1992 and the current state of knowledge production in this subject area.
Design/methodology/approach – The study is based on a review of published sources on
accounting history and women’s, gender and feminist history.
Findings – Whereas feminist historians and historians of gender boast substantial advances in
research and transformative impacts on the wider discipline of history, similar momentum is less
evident in accounting history. It is argued that over the past 15 years scholarship has remained
substantially in the “recovery” phase, has not “defamiliarized” the sub-ﬁeld and is yet to engage with
developments in feminist and gender historiography which offer regenerative potential.
Research limitations/implications – The paper argues that sex and gender differentiation persist
in both the past and the present and their study should feature large on the accounting history
Originality/value – Core themes in feminist and gender history are explored with a view to
identifying research questions for accounting historians. These themes include the oppression and
subordination of women, the public-private divide, restoring women to history, devising new
periodisations, investigating socio-cultural relations, and the construction of identities.
Keywords Accountancy, History, Women, Gender, Feminism, Sexual discrimination
Paper type General review
It has been claimed that since its emergence during the 1970s “women’s history has
probably done more than any other recent radical innovation to modify the shape of the
discipline [of history], enlarging its subject-matter and inﬂuencing its modes of
explanation” (Tosh, 2000, p. 127). Feminist and gender historians frequently ponder the
substantial, if imperfect, advance of the past 30 years as reﬂected in “an enormous
corpus of writing, an imposing institutional presence, a substantial list of journals, and
a foothold in popular consciousness” (Scott, 2004). They chart progress from the initial
“discovery” of women in history to their “recovery” and “post-recovery” in the wider
discipline. Can the same transformation be claimed for feminist and gender studies in
accounting history? How far did the initial promise of a herstory of accounting succeed
in “rescuing” histories of women or recast the pursuit of accounting history research as
a whole? A review of the literature produced in the sub-ﬁeld since the early 1990s
suggests negative responses to such questions. However, feminist and gender
historiography inspire ways of reinvigorating the pursuit of accounting histories of
women. These ways are explored in later sections of this paper.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The author greatly appreciated the comments and suggestions received from the two
anonymous referees and the Guest Editors of this Special Issue.
Received February 2007
Revised September 2007,
Accepted December 2007
Accounting, Auditing &
Vol. 21 No. 4, 2008
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited