Norwegian historians have come to argue, with little empirical evidence, that the economic liberalisation of the 1800s had only a minor effect on women’s entrepreneurial activity. By using trade records and other historical material from Kristiania in the late 1800s, this article shows how the 19th Century economy provided women with new business opportunities. Women’s activity, either as hired labour or self-employed, increased in particular during the boom years of the 1880s and 1890s. As the population of the Norwegian capital reached new heights, demand for goods and services increased dramatically. The retail sector, followed by the service sector, thus attracted most of the female proprietors. According to the law of 1842, and also the handicraft law of 1866, only women without men to provide for them were entitled to engage in economic activities, while the export trade remained a male privilege. In this way, women’s business activities never challenged the position of wealthier businessmen. But in 1894 married women were also given the right to engage in buying and selling, providing a further spur to women-owned businesses until accounting and bookkeeping were made compulsory for all engaged in business in 1907. This strengthened the role of formalised business education, modelled on the rhetoric of gender difference.