In the early days of Van Diemen's Land, a company had to be created by special legislation.
Only then did it become a legal person and could own property and be sued.
Remarkably, married women did not have the same status. There was considerable debate about whether they had any legal existence separately from their husbands.
Which is one reason why widows figure more prominently in our recorded history. Not until 1882 did married women begin to gain property rights.
John Cox and Mary Halls married in Bristol in 1821 and immediately migrated to Tasmania.
Cox was a courageous and imaginative entrepreneur, despite many setbacks.
He was considerably assisted by Mary, though her contribution has to be inferred.
It is evidenced from such titbits as the licence for the Macquarie Hotel in Hobart being awarded to "Mr and Mrs Cox", and in his returning to England for 15 months in 1830, leaving Mary in charge.
In 1832, John Cox and others saw an opportunity to provide a stagecoach service between Hobart and Launceston.
The main road was becoming increasingly passable to carriages and there was a big need for mail and package deliveries.
John and Mary Cox were the first to provide a passenger service as well, and after a competitor defaulted, they obtained the lucrative government mail contract from Lt-Governor Arthur.
They did well, establishing a reliable two-day transit and in 1835 relinquished the Hobart hotel and moved to Launceston, taking over the Cornwall Hotel in Cameron Street.
Unfortunately Cox died in 1837, leaving Mary with eight surviving children, plus the Cornwall Hotel and stagecoaches to manage alone. He also left large debts incurred in building the business.
Mary was indomitable, and proved to have amazing business skills.
Within three years, she'd repaid all the creditors, and despite costs caused by bushrangers, she expanded the stagecoach line. By 1849 she was running a daily service in each direction (except Sundays), with an overnight coach four times a week as well.
She had special coaches built to her own design in England and fresh horse teams stationed every 10 miles along the route.
Under her management, people could get from Launceston to Hobart in just 11 hours.
It was an astonishing achievement and people lined the streets in intervening villages to watch her coaches fly through.
Her commercial success enabled her to pay for the best education for her children, and buy military commissions for her sons.
One son eventually became a colonel, and another a brigadier. Her daughter Anna was the mother of Premier Sir Neil Lewis.
After 12 years of running everything alone, including through a depression, she finally sold out to Samuel Page. She then had seven coaches and 150 horses.
Mary died in 1858 and joined her husband in the Cypress Street cemetery at Elphin.