Your path =Home>Beads and People>Women and Beads> Beadmakers

Women as Bead Traders

It's a fallacy to think of beads as just "women's things." On balance, women wear more beads than men. As other pages in this section show, women dominate in some aspects of beads, while men dominate in others. What about bead traders?

I've never seen a census taken of bead shop owners in the US, but from my experience I imagine they are mostly women. Is this a function of the relative freedom of American women or a function of women's love of beads?


At the Coyoacan Sunday market in Mexico City, some 100 small peddlers sell beads spread out on cloth laid on the ground. Men are in the majority, but many women and couples also operate their own open-air "shops."

In the Middle East, permanent jewelry stores are exclusively run by men. But, when it comes to Bedouin market day, women handle the beads and much of the used and new cheaper ornaments.

Beersheba, Israel

It is, however, West Africa that is most dominated by women dealers. When I tell Americans or Europeans that most dealers of any sort in West Africa are women they are often quite surprised. When I was last in Ghana the head of the Accra Chamber of Commerce was a woman and no one thought anything of it.


When you go to large, public African bead marts, such as Treichville in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (left) or Lomé, Togo, you will deal with young men, mostly Hausa
(they have a bead trading guild). But they are employees.

The stalls are owned by women, who also dominate at where locally made beads are sold, as at Agomenya, Ghana (right).

The dominance of women traders in West Africa has been transplanted to the Americas. Women run the majority of small African-American owned businesses in the US.


Small Bead Businesses | Beading & Beadwork | Ancient Beads | Trade Beads
Beadmaking & Materials | Bead Uses | Researching Beads | Beads and People
Center for Bead Research | Book Store | Free Store | Bead Bazaar
Shopping Mall | The Bead Auction | Galleries | People | Events
The Bead Site Home | Chat Line | Contact Us | Site Search Engine | FAQ