Much as it seems that women were passive in the Victorian era there were thousands of women business owners in the nineteenth century. They owned service, retail, manufacturing and agricultural businesses. In some cases they were sole traders, often working from home. In a great many cases they employed one or two hands, or an apprentice or two. Some employed 20, 50 and more. One of the most prosperous women of our area was Elaine Lindsay who was born in Almonte and made her way to Fargo to seek her fortune.
With files from the Perth Courier and North Dakota Archives.
Perth Courier, March 16, 1883
Lucky Lady—Fargo, Dakota
The Argus of March 5 gives a sketch of the business speculations of Elizabeth Lindsay, a young lady from Almonte who made her own fortune in the western land speculation. The lucky miss paid a visit to her relatives in Almonte this winter returning a short time ago to Fargo.
The sketch says: “A Miss Elisabeth Lindsay of Fargo, Dakota, is worth over $200,000, which she acquired solely by her own business acumen. Her father was a poor Canadian farmer originally from Scotland who was said to have a large family. Her father eventually died and her mother was listed on the census as head of household with 6 boarders living with them.
Elizabeth began earning a livelihood as a school teacher in Almonte, then tried bookkeeping and subsequently undertook the millinery business where she saved money after seven years of hard work.
Then, having a desire to go west, she visited Winnipeg and Fargo. While in the latter town, she invested $475 (note: it could have been $175) in two lots. Returning to Canada, she sold out her stock and returned to Fargo in 1880. She saw there a good chance to invest in real estate and bought 16 acres for $6,400 which is now called the “Lindsay Addition” to Fargo.
Men laughed at her for the risk she ran. She drew her own plan of lots and employed S. Hunt’s son as a surveyor. After paying all expenses she cleared on the second investment $14,000 and in five years had cleared $10,000 on the first investment.
Last Spring she bought at Grand Forks, Dakota, which five years ago was only a Hudson’s Bay trading post, 300 (note: could be 200) acres for $23,000. She has since sold less than one third of her purchase and has cleared all expenses for the entire contract of land. The rest is worth at least $73,000.
Miss Lindsay is a young woman of medium stature, fine and jet black hair, remarkably self-possessed and of a deliberate judgment and has surely demonstrated by business ability her right to consideration as a property holder and taxpayer of Dakota Territory.
Elizabeth Lindsay b1850 Fargo Ward 5 Cass North
1910 UNITED STATES CENSUS
The Syverson house is located at 745 First Street North in Fargo.
Gordon J. Keaney and Harriet Young purchased 40 acres of land from US Government on May 23, 1877. Keaney deeded the property to Ms. Young who, on September 4, 1880, sold a portion of the land to Samuel G. Roberts and a portion to Elizabeth Lindsay on June 23, 1881. When this later became part of the city of Fargo, it became known as “Lindsay’s Addition” to Fargo.
You can read The Perth Courier at Archives Lanark