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The Women of Steinway & Sons
The LaGuardia and Wagner Archives Celebrates Women’s History Month
  • The Women of Steinway & Sons Home
  • Introduction
  • Women and the Beginnings of the Company
  • The Product for Women
  • Women in the Workforce
  • Links

Women and the Beginnings of the Company


      Like many New Yorkers of the mid-Nineteenth century, the Steinways (then Steinweg) were newly arrived immigrants from Germany. They spent from 1850 to 1853 apprenticing at other piano manufacturers in the city, learning how to do business in their new home country. In the early years of the company, Steinway was truly a family operation. This included the women of the family: Julianne Steinweg, wife of the founder Heinrich (illiterate in both German and English) served as his chief secretary, in charge of all correspondence, while their daughter Doretta (26 years old at this time, 1854) was active in the sales department.

      The business quickly grew and prospered. After the death of Charles and Henry Steinway within a month of each other, the Steinway men were very concerned about keeping the control of this now profitable and wholly owned private partnership in their own bloodlines. They strove not to let the widows, who might remarry, control the family shares, as this would give partial control of the business to strangers. For this reason, on June 10, 1863 Partners of Steinway & Sons had their wives sign an agreement waiving the right to inherit any corporate property on the event of the death of any of their husbands. They could only be compensated monetarily. Thus a wife could not inherit her husband's share of the business and any remarriage could have no effect on the make-up of the partnership. While the women of the Steinweg family could work for the business, they could not have financial control of the corporation.