In 1839, tragedy struck as Benjamin Warner died. At the point of his death, Warner managed the family business making loom harnesses and as an engineer for Jacquard Looms. His wife, Ann, stepped in after Warner’s death and took over running the company. Her ledger is the only surviving record of her time as the manager, and detail their commercial growth, the clients they worked with and what was purchased. Ann is one of the few recorded women in a senior leadership role within the Warner family business.
The Warner Family had a long association with the textile industry, although few records have survived. According to a history written by Ernest Goodale, the earliest known involvement of the Warner family in the textile industry is with William Warner, who was a scarlet dyer. Within a century, the Warner family had shifted from dying to weaving and loom engineering. These included John Warner who was an apprentice with William Nash and Benjamin Warner who was a jacquard loom engineer. In 1839, aged 40, Benjamin Warner died leaving behind his wife Ann and his only son Benjamin.
At a time where it would have been uncommon for women to be managing a business in a senior position, Ann’s involvement in a senior role did not seem to hinder growth. Management of the textile industry at this point was dominated by men. Almost all of Ann’s clients were family-run businesses, with a predominant male work-force. Despite limitations facing women in the work-place, the Warner business thrived. Clients of Ann’s included the Braintree-based Courtaulds & Co. Sadly, little is known about Ann’s time managing the business, this ledger is one of the few surviving records. The ledger covers orders placed for loom harnesses between 1844 to 1852, when Benjamin Warner purchased a card cutting machine from Alphonse Burnier.
The role of women in the industrial revolution has been under researched. Many histories focusing on industrial growth in the 18th and 19th century have focused on the technological innovations of men, or their roles in artistic development of textile design. Women on the other hand have often been Pidgeon-holed into that of purely manufacturing or junior roles. Even senior technical roles, such as ‘master weaver’ who were often responsible for rendering loom punch-cards, have historically been reserved for men. The Ann Warner Ledger provides an alternative account, and demonstrates the diversity of roles women played during the Industrial Revolution.
Over its operating years, women played a crucial part of the Warner & Sons work force. Throughout its operating years, they would come to occupy a range of roles including sales, production, marketing, administration, design and technical work including rendering designs on point paper. By the 1970s, women made up a quarter of the work force. Sadly, few women after Ann would rise to a senior leadership role within the business. Where women did occupy more senior roles, these were typically in administrative or design positions. Nevertheless, the Ann Warner Ledger is an important surviving record documenting pioneering women.