In terms of trade skills, the avenue for social progress was open for both free and slave women albeit, because of the hereditary nature of most business enterprises, it was the class of free women that mostly benefited from it.
Once freed, domestic slaves did tend to opt for trade, mostly slave trade, to earn their living but they existed on the very fringes of the economy and enjoyed only marginal benefits by becoming part of the formal economy. In most cases, the best a slave woman could hope for was to rise to a more comfortable position amongst her peers, involving supervision of work being done by other slaves or participate in trade activities on behalf of her owner.
Free women, on the other hand, could use their business acumen as well as their family’s business clout to participate in shaping the policies and procedures governing the market activities. The hereditary nature of the businesses being operated by them meant that these businesses mostly changed hands from one generation to the next, which had already been engaged in its activities in an apprenticeship of sorts and hence was familiar with its workings. Furthermore, apart from benefiting from the resultant economic independence and social prestige, these women could also hope to rise to positions of leadership within their business community as well as society in general. (Havik, 2004).
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