Christine Englerth (1767–1838)

Christine Englerth was a businesswoman who developed coal mines in the early nineteenth century in the Rhineland, on the border of Germany and France.

She was born at Düsseldorf in 1767. Near the end of the eighteenth century her family took over land at Eschweiler, 15 kilometres to the east of Aachen. Her father, Johann Peter Wültgens, organised the mine holdings there but he died in 1787. Christine inherited the property with her brother and two sisters. She was just aged 20, and her husband Carl Englerth, a former soldier, took over the management of the mines.

The Eschweiler area became part of France during the Napoleonic Wars in 1794. The family took opportunities under French law to reorganise the mines and join them together under their ownership. Christine’s brother died in 1804 and when her husband died in 1814, she took over the commercial management of the mining operation. She was aged 47 and had ten children.

One of the first things she did was to buy the share in the mines of her two sisters so that she would have full control. With the area now part of Prussia after the end of the war she successfully won permission to mine new seams. Production of coal grew strongly in the 1830s. An example of her foresight was that in 1837 she and her sister Katharine became leading shareholders to build the pioneering Rhineland railway (the Rheinische Eisenbahngesellschaft).

In 1834, Catherine Englerth moved the mining property into an innovative joint-stock company with her ten children – the first such company in the Kingdom of Prussia. The Eschweiler Bergwerksverein (the Eschweiler mining company) came into being fully at her death in 1838 and continued for a century and a half.