Showing posts with label Colonial Women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Colonial Women. Show all posts


Mary Alexander

woman merchant of New York

Colonial New York Woman

Image: Mary Alexander Burial Site
Trinity Churchyard, Manhattan

Mary Spratt Provoost Alexander (born 1694, New York) was a dry goods importer and real estate entrepreneur in New York City, who was descended from wealthy merchants on all sides. Mary’s mother and grandmother ran their husbands’ mercantile businesses after their deaths. Mary's grandmother, Cornelia DePeyster, who raised Mary from the age of seven, was a major merchant in her own right, and was rated one of the wealthiest people in New York in 1695.

Mary married the thriving Dutch merchant Samuel Provoost in 1711. The Spratts, de Peysters, and Provoosts were all prominent families of colonial New York. When Samuel died around 1720, he left his fortune to his widow absolutely. Mary assumed control of his business, adding considerably to the family fortune.


Eliza Lucas Pinckney

South Carolina indigo plant

Colonial South Carolina Woman

Eliza Lucas was born on the Caribbean island of Antigua in the West Indies in 1722, the daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel George Lucas of the British Army and his wife. She had two younger brothers and a younger sister. Eliza attended a finishing school in England where French, music, and other traditionally feminine subjects were stressed, but Eliza's favorite subject was botany.

In about 1738, the Lucas family migrated from Antigua to a farming area near Charleston, South Carolina, where Eliza's mother died soon thereafter. George Lucas bought several plantations, but he was soon recalled to Antigua, and Eliza was left to take care of her siblings and to manage his three plantations.


Susannah Randolph

Colonial Virginia family

Colonial Virginia Woman

Image: Lady Susannah Beverley Randolph
Artist: Edward Caledon Bruce
Oil on canvas

Susannah Beverley was born about 1692 and became the wife of Sir John Randolph about 1718 – there are no records of the exact dates. If she was 26 at the time of her marriage, she was rather mature for a colonial bride. Her eldest sister was the wife of her husband's eldest brother, which may suggest how they met. Whatever the uncertainties, there is no doubt that Sir John found her to be an excellent mate, or that she reared children of unusual ability.

In almost two centuries of colonial Virginia history, there was only one woman who had a certifiable claim to the title of Lady – Susannah Beverley Randolph. Courtesy, of course, bestowed the honor of lady on every woman of the better sort, and certainly most of the middling class. But she was the wife of Sir John Randolph, the only Virginian knighted from the day Roanoke Island was settled in 1585 until independence was declared in 1776.


Catherine Blaikley

Williamsburg church

Colonial Virginia Woman

Image: Bruton Parish Church
Williamsburg, Virginia

Catherine Blaikley, born in 1695, lived in Williamsburg, Virginia. Her husband was merchant William Blaikley, who was reported to have been a wealthy merchant there. William Blaikley died in 1736, and left her a considerable amount of money and property. In a will written February 10, 1734, Blaikley bequeathed "unto my loving wife Catherine Blaikley, all my whole estate of lands, houses, Negroes, goods, and chattels, meaning my houses and lots in Williamsburg and 50 acres of land in Powhatan."

During her 35-year widowhood, Catherine Blaikley lived in the house now called the Blaikely-Durfey House on Duke of Gloucester Street. The property inventory shows that the house was a half story house with a hall on each floor with rooms designated as Great Chamber Upstairs, little chamber upstairs, closet upstairs, passage upstairs, chamber below stairs chamber closet, parlor below stairs, hall, Mrs. Blaikley's closet, little room by the hall, back passage, kitchen loft, kitchen, cellar.


Elizabeth Haddon

Namesake of Haddonfield New Jersey

colonial women plantation house
Haddonfield Plantation
Elizabeth Haddon was born May 25, 1680, in Southwark, London, England. By the age of six, Elizabeth had probably begun her education. She was also actively interested in her mother's charities, and as she grew older, she went on modest little charitable ventures of her own. On one occasion, so the story goes, she asked her mother to let her have a party, and when the guests arrived, they were six tattered youthful beggars of the most forlorn London type.

In 1698, Elizabeth's Quaker father, John Haddon – a friend of William Penn – bought a 500-acre tract of land in Gloucester County in the English colony of West Jersey to escape religious persecution. Mr. Haddon was required to take physical possession of the land within six months, but poor health kept him from making the trip.


Blandina Kiersted Bayard

Lenape Native house
Blandina Kiersted was born in 1653, and was the daughter of Sarah Kiersted, a translator for the Lenape sachem (leader), Chief Oratam, in what is now New Jersey. Blandina learned the Lenape language from her mother, and also acted as an interpreter.

Image: Building a Lenape Longhouse

Lenape Life
The Lenape made dome-shaped houses called wigwams where a small family or individual could live. They pushed a circle of poles into the ground and then bent them over one another to make a domed frame, which they covered with sheets of bark, skins or woven rush mats. Several families sometimes lived together in a larger longhouse, still rounded on top, but longer. Inside the longhouse were platforms of poles on either side that could be used as seats or beds. Down the center was a row of fires to share. Openings in the roof let the smoke out. Corn and herbs were hung high in the roof, and there was room to store other goods beside the doorway.


Margaret Stevenson Scott

hanged Salem witch

Accused of Witchcraft

Born Margaret Stevenson in England in about the year 1615, she first appeared in the record books in 1642, when she married Benjamin Scott. Initially the Scotts lived in Braintree, Massachusetts, but later moved to Cambridge where they had four children between 1644 and 1650. The Scott family arrived in Rowley (a small town north of Salem) in 1651, where Margaret gave birth to three additional children.

The Scotts lacked the money to purchase their own land, and in 1664 the town donated land to Benjamin Scott. In March of 1665, Benjamin Scott was convicted of the crime of theft, for which he was "fined and admonished." However, six months later he took the Freeman's Oath, indicating he was both a householder and a church member.


Mary Ayer Parker

Salem Massachusetts

Salem Witchcraft Trials

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, Massachusetts, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials.

The Accusation
Mary Ayer, daughter to John and Hannah Ayer, married Nathanial Parker. She was 55 years old and a widow in 1692. Mary was accused of witchcraft, but refused to confess during the witchcraft trials saying, "I know nothing of it, there is another woman of the same name in Andover."


Mary Easty

witchcraft hanging

Salem Witch Trials

Image: The Salem Martyr 
By Thomas Slatterwhite Noble
Noble gained a reputation for his dramatic paintings of abolitionist subjects, and later turned to the Salem witch trials for another powerful moral theme. The Salem Martyr won a silver medal at the 1869 Cincinnati Industrial Exposition. A tradition in the Noble family holds that the model for this painting was a Cincinnati librarian who was a descendant of a woman who was executed in the Salem witch trials.

Mary Easty was well respected in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. She was a kind religious woman whose dignified demeanor fit the strict Puritan mold. She was about 58 years old at the time, and was married to Isaac Easty, with whom she had seven children. They owned and lived on a large valuable farm.


Martha Corey

witches in the american colonies

Salem Witchcraft Trials

Image: Martha and Giles Corey

Martha Corey lived on a farm in the southwest corner of Salem village with her husband Giles, a prosperous, uneducated, eighty-year-old farmer and full member of the church. In March 1692, Martha Corey made the mistake of publicly questioning the sincerity of the accusations of the afflicted girls – a group of Salem girls who had condemned several people as witches.

The Accusation
When the girls learned of Martha's attacks, they quickly responded by accusing her of witchcraft. When the girls first mentioned the name of Martha Corey, Edward Putnam and Ezekiel Cheever went to see Martha about the matter on March 12th. On the way, they saw Ann Putnam and asked her what clothes Mrs. Corey wore when her apparition appeared to her as Ann had said. Ann said that she was so blinded she could not see.


Martha Carrier

Salem witch

Salem Witchcraft Trials

Image: Scene at Witchcraft Trial

Born Martha Allen, she was the daughter of one of the original founders of the Massachusetts town of Andover. In 1674, Martha married below her station to a young Welsh servant, who was the father of her illegitimate child, Thomas Carrier. Living for a few years in Billerica, the couple returned to Andover in the 1680s with very little money and four children.

The couple settled in Billerica proceeded to enlarge their family. After what must have been a joyful time for the Carriers, now with three sons and two daughters, the tough times began in 1690. The next two Carrier children died from the common 17th century disease of smallpox.


Rebecca Nurse

accused Salem witches

Salem Witch Trials

Image: The Towne Sisters
This plaster statue depicts sisters Rebecca Towne Nurse, Mary Towne Easty, and Sarah Towne Cloyce wearing shackles. Nurse and Easty were hanged, but Cloyce was later released. The statue is located in the Salem Wax Museum of Witches and Seafarers.

Rebecca Towne was baptized at Yarmouth, England, on February 21, 1621. She came to Salem, Massachusetts with her family in 1640. In about 1645, she married Francis Nurse, who was described as a tray maker. The making of trays and similar articles of domestic use was important employment in the remote countryside.

In 1692, the "black cloud of the witchcraft delusion descended upon Salem Village." Rebecca Nurse was a 71-year-old invalid who had raised a family of eight children. Her family had been involved in several land disputes, which could have caused ill-feelings among some of the residents of Salem. Nevertheless, most of her contemporaries sympathized with her.


Susannah Martin

Salem witch

Salem Witch Trials

Susannah North Martin
Reading her Bible in Salem Jail

Susannah North was baptized at Olney, Buckinghamshire, England, September 30, 1621. Her mother died when she was a child, and her stepmother was named Ursula. She came to America with her father, stepmother, and at least one sister. Her family moved to Salisbury, Massachusetts, around 1639. On August 11, 1646, Susannah became the second wife of George Martin, a blacksmith with whom she had eight children.

First Accusation
In 1669, Susannah was first formally accused of witchcraft by William Sargent. Susannah was required to post 100 pounds bond to appear in court on a charge of witchcraft, a capital offense. George Martin sued Sargent for slander against Susannah for accusing her of being a witch, but the Court upheld the accusation of witchcraft. A higher court later dismissed the witchcraft charges.


Sarah Wildes

Salem witch

Salem Witch Trials

In 1692 the Puritans had governmental control of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and only members of the Puritan church were allowed to vote. Well-to-do merchants were complaining, and King Charles I was considering changing the charter for Massachusetts to allow all property owners to vote. This would mean loss of power for the Puritans. All the upper echelons of the church were enraged at the prospect.

John Wildes' first wife Priscilla died in 1662, and he remarried in 1663 to Sarah Averill. By this time, John was very prominent in Topsfield politics (at the time of his death he was known in Topsfield as "Old Father Wildes." He was responsible for surveying the land to establish the boundary between Topsfield and Salem. The survey was a matter of great contention, and it was ultimately resolved in Topsfield's favor.


Elizabeth Howe

Salem witch

New England Witch Trials

Topsfield, Massachusetts
New England was organized into townships roughly six miles square with a village surrounding the "commons", which was a central community grazing ground, with the church and community meeting house facing the commons. Town meetings elected town officers and the sheriff, raised taxes, and tried to resolve any problems present in the community. Many communities set up different rules than those pronounced by the General Court in Boston.

The people of such communities were very dependent upon each other. Individuals interacted by means of the sale of goods or labor or by barter for other goods or labor. One's ability to generate trades was economically necessary, but generosity was needed as well since all these dealings were seen and known throughout the whole community.


Sarah Good

accused colonial witch

Salem Witch Trials

Seventeenth century laws on witchcraft in New England paralleled those in England, based on a verse from the King James translation of the Bible. The verse, Exodus 22:18, reads "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." The King James version of the Bible was ordered by King James I, who ruled from 1603 to 1625. By 1647, all New England colonies had made witchcraft a capital crime, punishable by death.

Sarah Solart was the daughter of a prosperous Wenham innkeeper, John Solart. Solart took his own life by drowning in 1672 when Sarah was 17, leaving an estate of 500 pounds. After testimony of an oral will, the estate was divided between his widow and her two eldest sons, with a portion to be paid to each of the seven daughters when they came of age. Mrs. Solart quickly remarried, and her new husband came into possession of her share and the unpaid shares of the daughters, and most of the daughters never received a portion of the Solart estate.



colonial witch Tituba

Accused of Witchcraft

Image: Tituba's Encounter with Cotton Mather in the Woods of Salem
A scene from the play Giles Corey of the Salem Farms
Illustration in The Political Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Volume II

Tituba was a South American Indian woman, not an African American slave, as is commonly believed. She was originally from an Arawak village in South America, where she was captured as a child, taken to Barbados and sold into slavery. It was in Barbados that her life first became entangled with that of Reverend Samuel Parris.


Salem Witch Trials

13 women were hanged on Gallows Hill during the Salem Witchcraft Trials

Witchcraft in 17th Century Massachusetts

Image: Witchcraft Victims on the Way to the Gallows
Illustration in the Boston Herald 14 May 1930

Scattered episodes of witch trials and hangings occurred throughout New England from the middle sixteen hundreds. The only escape for the accused or condemned was to confess and claim to negate the pact with the Devil, or to escape south out of New England to New York or Pennsylvania where witchcraft was not punished. Most of the accused were not wealthy enough to escape south fast enough to stay ahead of the sheriff sent to detain them.


The Life of a Colonial Wife

colonial women

A Woman's Place

Because most colonial women married, the term good wife came into existence and a code of ethics developed that would govern female life in New England from 1650 to 1750. Good wives had legal rights in colonial America, and actually had more freedom than nineteenth-century women would have.

With This Ring
Marriage was considered the normal state for all adult residents in the colonies. Most men first married in their mid-twenties, and women at around age 20. Second marriages were not uncommon, and widows and widowers faced social and economic pressures to remarry. On average, most widows and widowers remarried within six months to a year.


New Jersey Women

colony of new jersey native Americans

Native American, Dutch and English Women

Image: Lenape Woman

Native American Lenape women were the first New Jersey women. They lived in the Land of the Lenape for more than 12,000 years. They were a highly developed culture with communities that included a great hall, a central building for government, agricultural and spiritual meetings. Smallpox and other imported diseases ravaged the Lenape population. Although Lenape were known as a peaceful people, they were forced to defend themselves and their land against Dutch settlers in the 1600s.

Lenape communities included separate buildings for trade, food storage, cooking, children's education, medical purposes, and a building for teaching war tactics. Lenape communities also included single-family dwellings for newlyweds and elders. The central and largest building was used for gatherings to celebrate engagements, weddings, births, spring festival, and annual harvest.