RESEARCH SEMINAR: KAREN MAHAR
"THE RIGHT KIND OF MAN”: MASCULINITY, IDENTITY, AND THE AMERICAN BUSINESS EXECUTIVE IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY
In the decades after 1890, as large corporations run by salaried managers became a distinguishing feature of economic life, the term “business executive” joined the American lexicon. But even inside business circles it was unclear how to define “business executive” as an occupational category or what traits predicted an executive’s success. This paper examines efforts to define the new American business executive within business literature and popular discourse between 1890 and 1920. It argues that the slipperiness of the term reflected the weight it carried both as a real job and as a symbol of the new corporate order. It identifies multiple strands of masculinized identity associated with the idealized executive (engineering expertise, elite power, and shop floor fluency), and suggests that the emergence of this category during the height of the eugenics movement encouraged linking business leadership with white hypermasculinity.
Attendees are encouraged to read Mahar’s paper, ‘“The Right Kind of Man”: Masculinity, Identity, & the American Business Executive in the Early Twentieth Century," which may be obtained by contacting Carol Lockman at clockman@Hagley.org.
Free, reply requested, call (302) 658-2400, ext. 243, or email Carol Lockman at clockman@Hagley.org.
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This paper explores why unconventional and esoteric philosophical and religious beliefs have sometimes provided the foundation for successful business enterprises over the last two hundred years, and more especially for businesses pursuing goals other than securing returns to shareholders.
Danya Pilgrim is a PhD in African American Studies and American Studies, completed at Yale University in 2019. Pilgrim is a social and cultural historian with research interests in domestic arts and foodways, and the African American experience.