Tuesday, December 31, 2019

1739 - The Mother of the Infant in the Well

By Dr. Anthony Vaver, whose fine blog on Early American Crime you may find here.

On Saturday morning, August 11, 1739, a female infant was discovered in a well near the outskirts of Portsmouth, NH. Warrants were immediately issued, and a search was conducted to find the mother who presumably had murdered the baby.

By the afternoon, officers focused their attention on Sarah Simpson, a 27 year-old widow. Neighbors believed that Simpson had been carrying a child, but she had hidden the fact well enough to cause some doubt. Now, in light of the infant found in the well, Simpson was arrested and charged with murder, but she steadfastly denied that she was the mother of the baby girl.

To prove the fact, Simpson led the constable out to a bank along the river and pointed to the ground. After a little digging, the body of her own infant was uncovered beneath four inches of dirt. Simpson maintained that the child was stillborn, but she was put in jail nonetheless, and the search for the mother of the baby in the well continued.
The Law

Simpson no doubt tried to hide her out-of-wedlock pregnancy in order to avoid the punishment and public humiliation she would have received if caught. The punishment for committing adultery or bearing a bastard child in early America varied from colony to colony, but it generally included some combination of whipping, fines, wearing an “A” on clothing, and even standing at a gallows with a rope around one’s neck for a specified period of time.

Punishments for bearing bastard children were particularly harsh, because the community would most likely have to take on the added expense of raising the parentless child until around the age of six, or until he or she could be placed in an apprenticeship. Servants who bore bastard children tended to receive harsher punishments than other women.

Simpson certainly had incentive to hide her pregnancy, but by doing so, she was taking on an even greater risk. New Hampshire had earlier passed “An Act to prevent the destroying and murdering of Bastard Children,” which read,

"if any Woman be deliver’d of any Issue of her Body, Male or Female, which if it were born alive, should by Law be a Bastard, and that she endeavour privately, either by drowning or secret burying thereof, or any other Way, either by herself or by the procuring of others so to conceal the Death thereof, that it may not come to Light, whether it were born alive or not, but be conceal’d; in every such Case the Mother so offending shall suffer Death, as in Case of Murder; except such Mother can make Proof, by one Witness at the least, the Child, whose Death was by her so intended to be conceal’d, was born Dead."

So if an unmarried woman who hid her pregnancy happened to deliver a lifeless baby and was later discovered to have done so, she would automatically be charged with murder, which is why Simpson continued to be held in prison despite claiming that her baby was stillborn.

Suspect Number Two

On Sunday, the day after Simpson was put in prison, officers believed they had finally identified the real killer of the infant in the well: Penelope Kenny, a 20 year-old woman who was born in Limerick, Ireland and was a servant to Dr. Joseph Franklin. But Kenny also denied being the mother of the baby in the well, this time on the grounds that she had never delivered a baby.
The justices of the town, though, were unconvinced. They called for "four or five skilful Women" to examine Kenny, and after doing so the panel concluded that Kenny had indeed delivered a child within the past week. Kenny was placed in prison, but she continued to deny that she was the mother of the infant found in the well. After some intense interrogation about what had happened to the baby she did deliver, Kenny eventually hinted that she had done something just as bad as what had happened to the found infant and that “God was now about to bring her to Justice.”

On Monday morning, Kenny summoned the justices to her cell, and she finally owned up to having delivered a live male child last Wednesday morning. After the birth, Kenny said, she placed the baby in a tub in her master’s cellar and left it there until Friday night. When she returned, the baby was dead.

Kenny took the justices to the place where she had gotten rid of the body by placing it in the river, only 60 yards away from where Sarah Simpson had buried her dead baby.

Execution

On Thursday, December 27, 1739, an unusually large crowd gathered for the execution of Sarah Simpson and Penelope Kenny, who were both found guilty of murder. One minister speculated that the crowd was so large because people wanted to witness the first execution to take place in the province of New Hampshire.
The mother of the baby in the well was never located, although some people believed that, despite her claim, Kenny really was its mother.

A brief notice about the execution of the two women appeared in The New England Weekly Journal. In the same article was yet another story that on the Sunday after the execution took place, another woman, Jane Law, was arrested on suspicion of killing her bastard child after it was found dead in a box covered with rye.

Not one of the reports or sermons connected with these cases mentioned any attempt to locate the fathers of these children or even made reference to their responsibility in the matter.

Sources

Mofford, Juliet Haines. “The Devil Made Me Do It!”: Crime and Punishment in Early New England. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2012.

New-England Weekly Journal, January 1, 1740, issue 663, p. 4. Database: America’s Historical Newspapers, Readex/Newsbank.

“Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, August 17.” Boston Post-Boy, August 20, 1739, issue 253, p. 3. Database: America’s Historical Newspapers, Readex/Newsbank.

Shurtleff, William. The Faith and Prayer of a Dying Malefactor: A Sermon Preach’d December 27, 1739 on Occasion of the Execution of Two Criminals, Namely, Sarah Simpson and Penelope Kenny. Boston: J. Draper, 1740. Database: America’s Historical Imprints, Readex/Newsbank.

About the guest author:
Anthony Vaver is the author & publisher of EarlyAmericanCrime.com, a website that explores crime, criminals, & punishments from America’s past. He has a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook & an M.L.S. from Rutgers University. He is currently working on a new book about early American criminals. He claims with some certainty that he has never spent a night in jail but was once falsely accused of shoplifting.  His book Bound with an Iron Chain, is here.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1786-93 Beardsley Limner Sarah Bushnell Perkins  (1771 - 1831) Harmony Child Mrs Oliver Wright 1765-2861 CWF

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Many colonial women served their food in pewter vessels & used pewter utensils

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In 18th-century America, most women served their meals on pewter plates, tankards, pitchers, flatware, and serving vessels.  Pewter is an alloy composed mainly of tin with various amounts of lead, copper, zinc, antimony, & bismuth. Women in early China, Egypt, Greece, & Rome also used this soft metal for serving food. Because of its low melting point & how easily it dented, experts estimate that pewter in the colonial American home lasted only 10 years.


Nonetheless, while poor colonials used wooden utensils, most who could afford it used pewter. Though pewter vessels cost only about 1/10th the price of silver, they were still fairly expensive. One dish or tankard equaled or exceeded what a skilled craftsman earned in a day.


A study of English export records by Robert W. Symonds revealed that by 1720 "the value of pewter imports from England began to exceed the combined totals of the value of silver objects, furniture, upholstery wares, including bedding, curtains, carpets, hangings, and upholstered furniture." More than 300 tons of English pewter were shipped to the American colonies annually in the 1760's.


The English monarchy tightly controlled the export of goods to the colonies through the establishment of export laws. Exactly which pewter wares were to be exported was largely controlled by the English pewter guilds. These measures ensured the English guilds a market in the New World for their products, and significantly restricted the ability of American pewter smiths to compete.


However, due to the low melting point of pewter metal, it could easily be melted down & re-cast into new forms with little loss of material. American pewtersmiths decided to collect damaged or disused pewter goods & recycle them. One common colonial practice among pewterers was to offer 1 pound of new pewterware in exchange for 3 pounds of old. In some regions, pewterers traveled from door to door in order to collect damaged vessels for repair or for recycling.

American William Will 1742-1798 Pewter Coffee Pot

William Will was born in Germany, near the Rhine river. His family came to New York City in 1752, when he was 10. His father was a pewterer, as were his brothers. He appeared in Philadelphia, with his brother Philip, in 1763. The pewter maker married there & also served as an overseer of the poor, a sheriff of Philadelphia, an officer in the army, & in the General Assembly of the state. He died there in 1798. A local newspaper reported, "On Saturday morning departed this life after a lingering indisposition, which he bore with Christian fortitude, Col Willim Will, in the 56the year of his age; a native of the city of Nieuwidt in German; and on Monday, his remains were interred in the burial ground of the German reformed congregation attended by the members of the German incorporated society, and a very large number of respectable citizens."

In colonial America during the life of William Will, artisans made pewter articles by either casting the liquid pewter into molds, which were usually made of brass or bronze; by turning on a lathe; or by hammering a flat pieces such as large dishes, trenchers, or chargers into shape. Almost all pewter prior to 1800 was cast in molds. Molds were expensive; & immigrating pewterers, such as William Will's family, usually brought their molds with them from England or Germany.


For more information see:
Davis, John D. Pewter At Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg, VA: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2003.

Ebert, Katherine. Collecting American Pewter. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973.

Fennimore, Donald L. The Knopf Collectors' Guide to American Antiques: Silver & Pewter. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Herr, Donald M. Pewter in Pennsylvania German Churches. Birdsboro, PA: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1995.

Hornsby, Peter R.G. Pewter of the Western World, 1600 - 1850. Exton, PA: Shiffer Publishing Ltd., 1983

Jacobs, Carl. Guide to American Pewter. New York: The McBride Company, 1957.

Jacobs, Celia. American Pewter Marks & Makers, A Handbook for Collectors, rev. 2d ed. Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Green Press, 1970.

Kauffman, Henry J. The American Pewterer His Techniques and His Products. Camden, New Jersey: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1970.

Kerfoot, John Barrett. American Pewter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1924.

Laughlin, Ledlie Irwin. Pewter in America: Its Makers and Their Marks. 2 Volumes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1940; Volume 3. Barre, Massachusetts: Barre Publishers, 1971.

Montgomery, Charles F. A History of American Pewter. A Winterthur Book. New York: Praeger, 1973.

Myers, Louis G. Some Notes on American Pewterers. New York: Country Life Press, 1926.

Peal, Christopher. Pewter in Great Britain. London: John Gifford, Ltd., 1983.

Pewter Collectors' Club of America. Collecting Antique Pewter What to Look For and What to Avoid. PCCA, 2006.

Pewter Collectors' Club of America. Pewter in American Life. Providence, RI: Mowbray Company, 1984.

Thomas, John Carl. Connecticut Pewter and Pewterers. The Connecticut Historical Society: Connecticut Printers, 1976.

Thomas, John Carl, Editor. American and British Pewter. New Jersey: The Main Street Press, 1976.

 Much of the information about the general history of American pewter in this blog comes from the website of The Pewter Collectors' Club Of America, Inc.
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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1785-90 Beardsley Limner Sarah Bushnell Perkins  (1771 - 1831) Elizabeth Davis Mrs Hezekiah Beardsley 1749-1790 Yale Univ Art Gallery

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Monday, December 23, 2019

The proper English kitchen, when we were still the British American colonies...

Frontispiece from Martha Bradley’s “The British Housewife or, The Cook Housekeeper’s and Gardiner’s Companion 1756

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1784 Henry Benbridge 1743-1812 Mrs. William Allston, Jr (Rachel Moore) MESDA

Friday, December 20, 2019

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Elizabeth Ashbridge (1713–1755) Becomes a Quaker


English-born Elizabeth Ashbridge (1713–1755) eloped at age 14 & was a widow 5 months later. Rejected by her family, she sailed for New York in 1732.

Forced to sign an indenture to pay for her passage, she worked as a house servant in conditions that "would make the most strong heart pity the Misfortunes of a young creature as I was." After 3 years she bought out the remainder of her contract supporting herself as a seamstress.

In New York, she married a man who was frequently violently drunk & who despised the Quaker religion. From New York, Elizabeth traveled to Philadelphia to visit relatives, and her husband followed.

When I came to Trent-town Ferry, I felt no small mortification on hearing that my relations were all Quakers, and, what was worst of all, that my aunt was a preacher. I was exceedingly prejudiced against this people, and often wondered how they could call themselves Christians.

I repented my coming, and was almost inclined to turn back; yet, as I was so far on my journey, I proceeded, though I expected but little comfort from my visit, How little was I aware it would bring me to the knowledge of the truth!

I went from Trent-town to Philadelphia by water, and from thence to my uncle’s on horseback. My uncle was dead, and my aunt married again; yet, both she and her husband received me in the kindest manner. I had scarcely been three hours in the house, before my opinion of these people began to alter.

I perceived a book lying upon the table, and, being fond of reading, took it up; my aunt observed me, and said, “Cousin, that is a Quaker’s book.” She saw I was not a Quaker, and supposed I would not like it. I made her no answer, but queried with myself, what can these people write about? I have heard that they deny the scriptures, and have no other bible than George Fox’s Journal,— denying, also, all the holy ordinances.

But, before I had read two pages, my heart burned within me, and, for fear I should be seen, I went into the garden. 1 sat down, and, as the piece was short, read it before I returned, though I was often obliged to stop to give vent to my tears. The fulness of my heart produced the involuntary exclamation of,

“My God, must I, if ever I come to the knowledge of thy truth, be of this man’s opinion, who has sought thee as I have done; and must I join this people, to whom, a few hours ago, I preferred the papists. O, thou God of my salvation, and of my life; who hath abundantly manifested thy long suffering and tender mercy, in redeeming me as from the lowest hell, I beseech thee to direct use in the right way, and keep me from error; so will I perform my covenant, and think nothing too near to part with for thy name’s sake. O, happy peoples thus beloved of God!”

Alter having collected myself, I washed my face, that it might not be perceived I had been weeping. In the night I got but little sleep; the enemy of mankind haunted me with his insinuations, by suggesting that I was one of those that wavered, and not steadfast in faith; and advancing several texts of scripture against me, as that, in the latter days, there should be those who would deceive the very elect; that of such were the people I was among, and that I was in danger of being deluded.

Warned in this manner, (from the right source as I thought,) I resolved to be aware of those deceivers, and for some weeks did not touch one of their books. The next day, being the first of the week, I was desirous of going to church, which was distant about four miles; but being a stranger, and having no one to go with me, I gave up all thoughts of that and, as most of the family were going to meeting, I went there with them.

As we sat in silence, I looked over the meeting, and said to myself, “How like fools these people sit; how much better would it be to stay at home, and read the Bible, or some good book, than come here and go to sleep.” As for me I was very drowsy; and, while asleep, had nearly fallen down. This was the last time I ever fell asleep in a meeting. I now began to be lifted up with spiritual pride, and to think myself better than they; but this disposition of mind did not last long.

It may seem strange that, after living so long with one of this society at Dublin, I should yet be so much a stranger to them. In answer, let it be considered that, while I was there, I never read any of their books nor went to one meeting; besides, I had heard such accounts of them, as made me think that, of all societies, they were the worst. But he who knows the sincerity of the heart, looked on my weakness with pity; I was permitted to see my error, and shown that these were the people I ought to join.

A few weeks afterwards, there was an afternoon meeting at my uncle’s, at which a minister named William Hammans was present. I was highly prejudiced against him when he stood up, but I was soon humbled; for he preached the gospel with such power that I was obliged to confess it was the truth. But, though he was the instrument of assisting me out of many doubts, my mind was not wholly freed from them.

The morning before this meeting I had been disputing with my uncle about baptisms which was the subject handled by this minister, who removed all my scruples beyond objection, and yet I seemed loath to believe that the sermon I had heard proceeded from divine revelation. I accused my aunt and uncle of having spoken of me to the friend; but they cleared themselves, by telling me, that they had not seen him, since my coming, until he came into the meeting.

I then viewed him as the messenger of God to me, and, laying aside my prejudices, opened; the beauty of which was shown to me, with the glory of those who continued faithful to it. I had also revealed to me the emptiness of all shadows and types, which, though proper in their day, were now, by the coming of the Son of God, at an end, and everlasting righteousness, which is a work in the heart, was to be established in the room thereof, I was permitted to see that all I had gone through was to prepare me for this day; and that the time was near, when it would be required of me, to go and declare to others what the God of mercy had done for my soul; at which I was surprised, and desired to be excused lest I should bring dishonour, to the truth, and cause his holy name to be evil spoken of.

Of these things I let no one know. I feared discovery and did not even appear like a friend.

I now hired to keep school, and, hearing of a place for my husband, I wrote, and desired him to come, though I did not let him know how it was with me.

I loved to go to meetings, but did not love to be seen going on weekdays, and therefore went to them. from my school, through the woods. Notwithstanding all my care, the neighbours, (who were not friends,) soon began to revile me with the name of Quaker; adding, that they supposed I intended to be a fool, and turn preacher.

Thus did I receive the same censure, which, about a year before, I had passed on one of the handmaids of the Lord in Boston. I was so weak, that I could not bear the reproach. In order to change their opinion, I went into greater excess of apparel than I had freedom to do, even before I became acquainted with friends. In this condition I continued till my husband came, and then began the trial of my faith.

Before he reached me, he heard I was turned Quaker; at which he stamped, and said, “I had rather have heard she was dead, Well as I love her; for, if it be so, all my comfort is gone.” He then came to me; it was after an absence of four months; I got up and said to him, “My dear, I am glad to see thee.”

At this, he flew into a great rage, exclaiming, “The devil thee, thee, thee, don’t thee me.” I endeavoured, by every mild means, to pacify him; and, at length, got him fit to speak to my relations. As soon after this as we were alone, he said to me, “And so I see your Quaker relations have made you one” I replied, that they had not, (which was true,) I never told them how it was with me.

He said he would not stay amongst them; and, having found a place to his mind, hired, and came directly back to fetch me, walking in one afternoon, thirty miles to keep me from meeting the next day, which was first day. He took me, after resting this day, to the place where he had hired, and to lodgings he had engaged: at the house of a churchwarden. This man was a bitter enemy of Friends, and did all he could to irritate my husband against them.

Though I did not appear like a Friend, they all believed me to be one. When my husband and he used to be making their diversions and reviling, I sat in silence, though now and then an involuntary sigh broke from me; at which he would say, “There, did not I tell you your wife was a Quaker, and she will become a preacher.”

On such an occasion as this, my husband once came up to me, in a great rage, and shaking his hand over me, said, “You had better be hanged in that day.” I was seized with horror, and again plunged into despair, which continued nearly three months. I was afraid that, by denying the Lord, the heavens would be shut against me.

I walked much alone in the woods, and there, where no eye saw, or ear heard me, lamented my miserable condition. Often have I wandered, from morning till night, without food, I was brought so low that my life became a burden to me; and the devil seemed to vaunt that, though the sins of my youth were forgiven me, yet now I had committed an unpardonable sin, and hell would inevitably be my portion, and my torments would be greater than if I had hanged myself at first.

In the night, when, under this painful distress of mind, I could not sleep, if my husband perceived me weeping, he would revile me for it. At length, when he and his friend thought themselves too weak to overset me, he went to the priest at Chester, to inquire what he could do with me.

This man knew I was a member of the Church, for I had shown him my certificate. His advice was, to take me out of Pennsylvania, and settle in some place where there were no Quakers. My husband replied, he did not care where we went, if he could but restore me to my natural liveliness of temper.

As for me, I had no resolution to oppose their proposals nor much cared where I went. I seemed to have nothing to hope for. I daily expected to be made a victim of divine wrath, and was possessed with the idea that this would be by thunder.

When the time of removal came, I was not permitted to bid my relations farewell; and, as my husband was poor, and kept no horse, I was obliged to travel on foot.

We came to Wilmington, fifteen miles, and from thence to Philadelphia by water. Here we stopt at a tavern, where I became the spectacle and discourse of the company. My husband told them his wife had become a Quaker; and he designed, if possible, to find out a place where there was none: (thought I,) I was once in a condition to deserve that name, but now it is over with me. O that I might, from a true hope, once more have an opportunity to confess the truth; though I was sure of all manner of cruelties, I would not regard them.

Such were my concerns, while he was entertaining the company with my story, in which he told them that I had been a good dancer, but now he could get me neither to dance or sing. One of the company then started up and said, “I’ll fetch a fiddle, and we’ll have a good dance;” a proposal with which my husband was pleased.

When the fiddle was brought, my husband came and said to me, “My dear, shake off that gloom, and let us have a civil dance; you would, now and then, when you were a good churchwoman, and that’s better than a stiff Quaker,”

I had taken up the resolution not to comply with his request, whatever might be the consequence; this I let him know, though I durst say little, for fear of his choleric temper. He pulled me round the room, till the tears fell from my eyes, at the sight of which the musician stopt, and said “I’ll play no more; let your wife alone...”

Finding that all the means he had yet used could not alter my resolutions, he several times struck me with severe blows. I endeavoured to bear all with patience, believing that the time would come when he would see I was in the right.

Once he came up to me, took out his penknife, and said, “If you offer to go to meeting to-morrow, with this knife I’ll cripple you; for you shall not be a Quaker.” I made hint no answer. In the morning, I set out as usual; he did not attempt to harm me.

Having despaired of recovering me himself, he fled, for help, to the priest, whom he told, that I had been a very religious woman, in the way of the Church of England, of which I was a member, and had a good certificate from Long Island; that I was now bewitched, and had turned Quaker, which almost broke his heart; and, therefore, he desired that, as he was one who had the cure of souls, he would come and pay me a visit, and use his endeavours to reclaim me, which he hoped, by the blessing of God, would be done.

The priest consented, and fixed the time for his coming, which was that day two weeks, as he said he could not come sooner. My husband came home extremely pleased, and told me of it. I replied, with a smile, I trusted I should be enabled to give a reason for the hope within me; yet I believed, at the same time, that the priest would never trouble himself about me, which proved to be the case.

Before the day he appointed came, it was required of me, in a more public manner, to confess to the world what I was. I felt myself called to give up to prayer in meeting. I trembled, and would freely have given up my life to be excused. What rendered the required service harder on me was, that I was not yet taken under the care of friends; and was kept from requesting to be so, for fear I should bring a scandal on the society. I begged to be excused till I had joined, and then I would give up freely.

The answer was, “I am a covenant-keeping God, and the word that I spake to thee, when I found thee in distress, even that I would never forsake thee, if thou wouldst be obedient to what I should make known unto thee, I will assuredly make good. If thou refusest, my spirit shall not always strive. Fear not, I will make way for thee through all thy difficulties, which shall be many, for my name’s sake; but, be faithful, and I will give thee a crown of life.” To this language I answered “Thy will, O God, be done; I am in thy hand, do with me according to thy word;” and I then prayed.

This day, as usual, I had gone to meeting on foot. While my husband (as he afterwards told me) was lying on the bed, these words crossed his mind “Lord, where shall I fly to shun thee,” &c. upon which he arose, and, seeing it rain, got the horse and set off to fetch me, arriving just as the meeting broke up.

I got on horseback as quickly as possible, lest he should hear I had been speaking; he did hear of it nevertheless, and, as soon as we were in the woods, began with saying, “Why do you mean thus to make my life unhappy? What, could you not be a Quaker, without turning fool in this manner?”

I answered in tears, “My dear, look on me with pity, if thou hast any; canst thou think that I, in the bloom of my days, would bear all that thou knowest of, and much that thou knowest not of, if I did not feel it my duty.” These words touched him, and he said, “Well, I’ll e’en give you up; I see it wont avail to strive; if it be of God I cannot overthrow it; and, if of yourself, it will soon fall.” I saw the tears stand in his eyes, at which I was overcome with joy, and began already to reap the fruits of my obedience. But my trials were not yet over...

One night in a drunken stupor her husband enlisted himself in the army and was soon called to serve, which he refused claiming his Quaker religion as the reason why. This resulted in a horrific beating that hospitalized & killed him within a year.

Five years later Elizabeth married a third husband, his name Aaron Ashbridge. Aaron was a well-known & respected member within the Quaker community in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Source: Elizabeth Ashbridge, Some Account of the Early Part of the Life of Elizabeth Ashbridge (Philadelphia: H. and T. Kite, 1807).

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Sarah Osborn's Revolutionay War Service


Sarah Osborn (c 1754-1854) of Albany, New York, married blacksmith Aaron Osborn in 1780. He re-enlisted in the Third New York Regiment of the Continental forces as a commissary sergeant & asked Sarah to come with him. She worked as a washerwoman & cook for the troops. She spent about 3 years in the military, during which time she had 2 children, Phoebe & Aaron, Jr.

She was in New Windsor on February 20th, 1783, when the army was disbanded. Her husband Aaron left her at New Windsor. Without benefit of divorce, he married Polly Sloat. Sarah confirmed the remarriage of her husband and returned to her home in Blooming Grove, Orange County, New York, where she married John Benjamin.

After John Benjamin's death, in November 1837, at the age of 81, she was awarded a pension as Osborn's widow. She received a pension of $88 a year & remained on the pension rolls for 27 years

...after deponent had married said [Aaron] Osborn, he informed her that he was returned during the war, and that he desired deponent to go with him. Deponent declined until she was informed by Captain Gregg that her husband should be put on the commissary guard, and that she should have the means of conveyance either in a wagon or on horseback. That deponent then in the same winter season in sleighs accompanied her husband and the forces under command of Captain Gregg on the east side of the Hudson river to Fishkill, then crossed the river and went down to West Point. There remained till the river opened in the spring, when they returned to Albany. Captain Gregg’s company was along, and she thinks Captain Parsons, Lieutenant Forman, and Colonel Van Schaick, but is not positive.

Deponent, accompanied by her said husband and the same forces, returned during the same season to West Point. Deponent recollects no other females in company but the wife of Lieutenant Forman and of Sergeant Lamberson...

Deponent further says that she and her husband remained at West Point till the departure of the army for the South, a term of perhaps one year and a half, but she cannot be positive as to the length of time. While at West Point, deponent lived at Lieutenant Foot’s, who kept a boardinghouse. Deponent was employed in washing and sewing for the soldiers. Her said husband was employed about the camp...

When the army were about to leave West Point and go south, they crossed over the river to Robinson’s Farms and remained there for a length of time to induce the belief, as deponent understood, that they were going to take up quarters there, whereas they recrossed the river in the nighttime into the Jerseys and traveled all night in a direct course for Philadelphia. Deponent was part of the time on horseback and part of the time in a wagon. Deponent’s said husband was still serving as one of the commissary’s guard...

They continued their march to Philadelphia, deponent on horseback through the streets, and arrived at a place towards the Schuylkill where the British had burnt some houses, where they encamped for the afternoon and night. Being out of bread, deponent was employed in baking the afternoon and evening. Deponent recollects no females but Sergeant Lamberson’s and Lieutenant Forman’s wives and a colored woman by the name of Letta. The Quaker ladies who came round urged deponent to stay, but her said husband said, “No, he could not leave her behind.” Accordingly, next day they continued their march from day to day till they arrived at Baltimore, where deponent and her said husband and the forces under command of General Clinton, Captain Gregg, and several other officers, all of whom she does not recollect, embarked on board a vessel and sailed down the Chesapeake...

They continued sail until they had got up the St. James River as far as the tide would carry them, about twelve miles from the mouth, and then landed, and the tide being spent, they had a fine time catching sea lobsters, which they ate.

They, however, marched immediately for a place called Williamsburg, as she thinks, deponent alternately on horseback and on foot. There arrived, they remained two days till the army all came in by land and then marched for Yorktown, or Little York as it was then called. The York troops were posted at the right, the Connecticut troops next, and the French to the left. In about one day or less than a day, they reached the place of encampment about one mile from Yorktown. Deponent was on foot and the other females above named and her said husband still on the commissary’s guard...

Deponent took her stand just back of the American tents, say about a mile from the town, and busied herself washing, mending, and cooking for the soldiers, in which she was assisted by the other females; some men washed their own clothing. She heard the roar of the artillery for a number of days, and the last night the Americans threw up entrenchments, it was a misty, foggy night, rather wet but not rainy. Every soldier threw up for himself, as she understood, and she afterwards saw and went into the entrenchments. Deponent’s said husband was there throwing up entrenchments, and deponent cooked and carried in beef, and bread, and coffee to the soldiers in the entrenchment.

On one occasion when deponent was thus employed carrying in provisions, she met General Washington, who asked her if she “was not afraid of the cannonballs?”

She replied, “No, the bullets would not cheat the gallows,” that “It would not do for the men to fight and starve too.”

They dug entrenchments nearer and nearer to Yorktown every night or two till the last. While digging that, the enemy fired very heavy till about nine o’clock next morning, then stopped, and the drums from the enemy beat excessively. Deponent was a little way off in Colonel Van Schaick’s or the officers' marquee and a number of officers were present, among whom was Captain Gregg, who, on account of infirmities, did not go out much to do duty.

The drums continued beating, and all at once the officers hurrahed and swung their hats, and deponent asked them, “What is the matter now?”

One of them replied, “Are not you soldier enough to know what it means?”

Deponent replied, “No.”

They then replied, “The British have surrendered.”

Deponent, having provisions ready, carried the same down to the entrenchments that morning, and four of the soldiers whom she was in the habit of cooking for ate their breakfasts.

Deponent stood on one side of the road and the American officers upon the other side when the British officers came out of the town and rode up to the American officers and delivered up [their swords, which the deponent] thinks were returned again, and the British officers rode right on before the army, who marched out beating and playing a melancholy tune, their drums covered with black handkerchiefs and their fifes with black ribbands tied around them, into an old field and there grounded their arms and then returned into town again to await their destiny.

Deponent recollects seeing a great many American officers, some on horseback and some on foot, but cannot call them all by name. Washington, Lafayette, and Clinton were among the number. The British general at the head of the army was a large, portly man, full face, and the tears rolled down his cheeks as he passed along. She does not recollect his name, but it was not Cornwallis. She saw the latter afterwards and noticed his being a man of diminutive appearance and having cross eyes...

After two or three days, deponent and her husband, Captain Gregg, and others who were sick or complaining embarked on board a vessel from Yorktown, not the same they came down in, and set sail up the Chesapeake Bay and continued to the Head of Elk, where they landed. The main body of the army remained behind but came on soon afterwards. Deponent and her husband proceeded with the commissary’s teams from the Head of Elk, leaving Philadelphia to the right, and continued day after day till they arrived at Pompton Plains in New Jersey. Deponent does not recollect the county. They were joined by the main body of the army under General Clinton’s command, and they set down for winter quarters. Deponent and her husband lived a part of the time in a tent made of logs but covered with cloth, and a part of the time at a Mr. Manuel’s near Pompton Meetinghouse. She busied herself during the winter in cooking and sewing as usual. Her said husband was on duty among the rest of the army and held the station of corporal from the time he left West Point.

In the opening of spring, they marched to West Point and remained there during the summer, her said husband still with her. In the fall they came up a little back of New-burgh to a place called New Windsor and put up huts on Ellis’s lands and again sat down for winter quarters, her said husband still along and on duty. The York troops and Connecticut troops were there. In the following spring or autumn they were all discharged. Deponent and her said husband remained in New Windsor in a log house built by the army until the spring following. Some of the soldiers boarded at their house and worked round among the farmers, as did her said husband also.

Deponent and her said husband spent certainly more than three years in the service, for she recollects a part of one winter at West Point and the whole of another winter there, another winter at Pompton Plains, and another at New Windsor. And her husband was the whole time under the command of Captain Gregg as an enlisted soldier holding the station of corporal to the best of her knowledge.

In the winter before the army were disbanded at New Windsor, on the twentieth of February, deponent had a child by the name of Phebe Osborn, of whom the said Aaron Osborn was the father. A year and five months afterwards, on the ninth day of August at the same place, she had another child by the name of Aaron Osborn, Jr., of whom the said husband was the father...

About three months after the birth of her last child, Aaron Osborn, Jr., she last saw her said husband, who then left her at New Windsor and never returned. He had been absent at intervals before this from deponent, and at one time deponent understood he was married again to a girl by the name of Polly Sloat above Newburgh about fifteen or sixteen miles.

Deponent got a horse and rode up to inquire into the truth of the story. She arrived at the girl’s father’s and there found her said husband, and Polly Sloat, and her parents. Deponent was kindly treated by the inmates of the house but ascertained for a truth that her husband was married to said girl. After remaining overnight, deponent determined to return home and abandon her said husband forever, as she found he had conducted in such a way as to leave no hope of reclaiming him. About two weeks afterwards, her said husband came to see deponent in New Windsor and offered to take deponent and her children to the northward, but deponent declined going, under a firm belief that he would conduct no better, and her said husband the same night absconded with two others, crossed the river at Newburgh, and she never saw him afterwards. This was about a year and a half after his discharge...

After deponent was thus left by Osborn, she removed from New Windsor to Blooming Grove, Orange County, New York, about fifty years ago, where she had been born and brought up, and, having married Mr. Benjamin...she continued to reside there perhaps thirty-five years, when she and her husband Benjamin removed to Pleasant Mount, Wayne County, Pennsylvania, and there she has resided to this day. Her said husband, John Benjamin, died there ten years ago last April, from which time she has continued to be and is now a widow.

Source: Sarah Osborn’s 1837 application for Revolutionary War pension, Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

For more information on army camp followers see:
Walter Hart Blumenthal, Women Camp Followers of the American Revolution (New York, 1974)

Barton C. Hacker, “Women and Military Institutions in Early Modern Europe: A Reconnaissance,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 6, no. 4 (Summer 1981), 643-671.

Paul E. Kopperman, “Medical Services in the British Army, 1742-1783,” Journal of the History of Medicine (October 1979), 428-455.

Charlotte Brown, “The Journal of Charlotte Brown, Matron of the General Hospital, with the English Forces in America, 1754-1756,” in Isabel M. Calder, Colonial Captivities, Marches and Journeys (Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, Inc., 1935).

Mary M. Crawford, ed., “Mrs. Lydia B. Bacon’s Journal, 1811-1812,” Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 40 (Dec. 1944).

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1990)
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Monday, December 16, 2019

Sunday, December 15, 2019

In Business - Widow Elizabeth Peck Perkins

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Elizabeth Peck Perkins (1736-1807), was a Boston widow, businesswoman, & philanthropist. She was the oldest child of English immigrants Elizabeth & Thomas Handasyd Peck. Her father became a successful fur trader & hatter; an outspoken Whig; & a friend of John Murray, the founder of Universalism in America.

When she was 18, Elizabeth married James Perkins (1733-1773), an employee of her father’s counting house who later became a general-store merchant. Unfortunately, after less than 20 years of marriage, Perkins died leaving his wife with 8 children to feed & clothe & educate, a 9th having died as an infant.

Elizabeth Perkins resolved to establish her own business. She opened a variety store, where she told chinaware, glass, wine, & a wide range of other imported items.

But the American Revolution interrupted both her family & her business. Shortly before the battle of Bunker Hill, she decided it would be safer for her children, if they all moved to Barnstable, MA, where the family lived temporarily with an old family friend.

Following the British evacuation the next spring, she returned to Boston to reopen her business. But the years of the Revolution not only brought business upheavals, but personal tragedies as well. Her father died in 1777, & her mother a little over a year later.

Now Elizabeth was alone with her children. She was the sole surviving child of her parents; however, and she came into a respectable inheritance in Boston real estate but continued to have only a modest income.

By 1780, with her children growing toward adulthood, she began her civic involvment by donating $1,000 to support the Continental Army. Her 3 sons went to work at an early age and became leading maritime merchants in the 1790s. The two eldest, James (b 1761) & Thomas Handasyd (b 1764), formed the firm of J. & T.H. Perkins; the youngest, Samuel (b 1767), joined in business with his father-in-law, Stephen Higginson.

Following their mother's lead, all 3 became well known for their extensive philanthropy & civic interest. Thomas, perhaps the most famous of the great China trade merchants of the 19th century, was a benefactor of the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Boston Athenaeum, and the Perkins School for the Blind (which bears his name).

Her five daughters married; & with her children financially independent, Elizabeth Perkins turned her energy to civic & philanthropic endeavors. As her father had taught her, she was sympathetic to Universalist doctrines, rufusing to believe in damnation. She was accepting of a variety of religions including that of Jean de Cheverus, the first Roman Catholic bishop in Boston, to whom she offered a building she owned on School Street in which he could conduct services, as she contributed to his work among the poor.

She was deeply concerned with the mental illness she saw about her. In 1800, she helped found the Boston Female Asylum, the 1st charitable institution in Boston established by women. She served the asylum as a director & supported it financially both during her lifetime & in her will.

Elizabeth Peck Perkins continued to own considerable real estate in the Boston business district throughout her life. Until her death in 1807, she lived with the simplicity she had adopted during the years she was a single mother raising 8 children. She did most of her own housework wearing plain dresses of brown calico in the morning & changing to brown silk in the afternoon, when civic leaders & visitors might call requesting her financial assistance with another charitable endeavor.

A granddaughter remembered her as a stern, reserved woman of impressive dignity & strength of character, honored & respected by her children & somewhat feared by her grandchildren.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1779 Ralph Earl 1751-1801 Mrs. Oliver Wolcott (Laura Collins) VA Mus Fine Arts

Friday, December 13, 2019

Shakers under Lucy Wright 1760-1821




Lucy Wright (1760-1821), a Shaker leader & the dominant figure during the period of the society’s greatest growth, was a female successor to its founder, Ann Lee.

She was born in Pittsfield, Mass., the daughter of John & Mary (Robbins) Wright. Her mother died when she was about 18 years old. The following year she was married to Elizur Goodrich, a young merchant in the neighboring town of Richmond, just before his conversion to Shakerism, which demanded celibacy of it members. This did not bode well for their new marriage.

Elizur Goodrich accepted the gospel which the Shakers were beginning to preach at Watervliet, N.Y. Lucy was sympathetic but did not immediately join the group. In August 1780, when Ann Lee was confined to the Poughkeepsie jail, Lucy sent her presents "for her comfort & convenience.”
Lucy soon became a Shaker, & she & Goodrich quitted their “fleshly relations” & lived in separate men’s & women’s orders. After that, Lucy was renamed Lucy Faith in 1785, & lived at Watervliet. Her husband became an itinerant preacher & finally settled at New Lebanon, N.Y. After her husband left, she often used her maiden name.

In 1787, after the deaths of Mother Ann & Father James Whittaker, Father Joseph Meacham (their successor) selected Lucy Wright as the “first leading character in the female line.”

Under the joint administration of Father Joseph & Mother Lucy, the Believers were gathered together at the mother church in New Lebanon, forming a common-propertied, socio-religious organization which was copied by the 10 other Shaker communities in New York & New England. By this decision the Shakers were transformed from a loosely organized body of followers into an association of monasticlike self-supporting communities.

On Meacham’s death in 1796, Mother Lucy assumed the leadership of the central ministry assisted by one or two “elder brothers.” Under her administration the decision was made, in 1804, to send out the mission which eventually led to the establishment of 7 Shaker societies in Kentucky, Ohio, & Indiana.

She also authorized the publication of the basic theological work of the sect. Benjamin S. Youngs’ The Testimony of Christ’s Second Appearing (1808). Lucy brought more songs into the worship & more lively dances to keep the Shaker meetings animated, & she improved the schools.

She died at Watervliet, at the age of 61 & was buried there beside the grave of Ann Lee.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1773 John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 Mrs Moses Gill Rebecca Boylston Rhode Island

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Benjamin Franklin's Sister Jane Franklin Mecom

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The New York Times Opinion Pages,
Poor Jane’s Almanac
By JILL LEPORE, Op-Ed Contributor
Published: April 23, 2011


Poor Jane's Almanac


THE House Budget Committee chairman, Paul D. Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, announced his party’s new economic plan this month. It’s called “The Path to Prosperity,” a nod to an essay Benjamin Franklin once wrote, called “The Way to Wealth.”

Franklin, who’s on the $100 bill, was the youngest of 10 sons. Nowhere on any legal tender is his sister Jane, the youngest of seven daughters; she never traveled the way to wealth. He was born in 1706, she in 1712. Their father was a Boston candle-maker, scraping by. Massachusetts’ Poor Law required teaching boys to write; the mandate for girls ended at reading. Benny went to school for just two years; Jenny never went at all.

Their lives tell an 18th-century tale of two Americas. Against poverty and ignorance, Franklin prevailed; his sister did not.

At 17, he ran away from home. At 15, she married: she was probably pregnant, as were, at the time, a third of all brides. She and her brother wrote to each other all their lives: they were each other’s dearest friends. (He wrote more letters to her than to anyone.) His letters are learned, warm, funny, delightful; hers are misspelled, fretful and full of sorrow. “Nothing but troble can you her from me,” she warned. It’s extraordinary that she could write at all.

“I have such a Poor Fackulty at making Leters,” she confessed.

He would have none of it. “Is there not a little Affectation in your Apology for the Incorrectness of your Writing?” he teased. “Perhaps it is rather fishing for commendation. You write better, in my Opinion, than most American Women.” He was, sadly, right.

She had one child after another; her husband, a saddler named Edward Mecom, grew ill, and may have lost his mind, as, most certainly, did two of her sons. She struggled, and failed, to keep them out of debtors’ prison, the almshouse, asylums. She took in boarders; she sewed bonnets. She had not a moment’s rest.

And still, she thirsted for knowledge. “I Read as much as I Dare,” she confided to her brother. She once asked him for a copy of “all the Political pieces” he had ever written. “I could as easily make a collection for you of all the past parings of my nails,” he joked. He sent her what he could; she read it all. But there was no way out.

They left very different paper trails. He wrote the story of his life, stirring and wry — the most important autobiography ever written. She wrote 14 pages of what she called her “Book of Ages.” It isn’t an autobiography; it is, instead, a litany of grief, a history, in brief, of a life lived rags to rags.

It begins: “Josiah Mecom their first Born on Wednesday June the 4: 1729 and Died May the 18-1730.” Each page records another heartbreak. “Died my Dear & Beloved Daughter Polly Mecom,” she wrote one dreadful day, adding, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away oh may I never be so Rebelious as to Refuse Acquesing & saying from my hart Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

Jane Mecom had 12 children; she buried 11. And then, she put down her pen.

Today, two and a half centuries later, the nation’s bookshelves sag with doorstop biographies of the founders; Tea Partiers dressed as Benjamin Franklin call for an end to social services for the poor; and the “Path to Prosperity” urges a return to “America’s founding ideals of liberty, limited government and equality under the rule of law.” But the story of Jane Mecom is a reminder that, especially for women, escaping poverty has always depended on the opportunity for an education and the ability to control the size of their families.

The latest budget reduces financing for Planned Parenthood, for public education and even for the study of history. At one point in the budget discussion, all money for Teaching American History, a federal program offering training to K-12 history teachers, was eliminated. Are we never to study the book of ages?

On July 4, 1786, when Jane Mecom was 74, she thought about the path to prosperity. It was the nation’s 10th birthday. She had been reading a book by the Englishman Richard Price. “Dr Price,” she wrote to her brother, “thinks Thousands of Boyles Clarks and Newtons have Probably been lost to the world, and lived and died in Ignorance and meanness, merely for want of being Placed in favourable Situations, and Injoying Proper Advantages.” And then she reminded her brother, gently, of something that he knew, and she knew, about the world in which they lived: “Very few is able to beat thro all Impedements and Arive to any Grat Degre of superiority in Understanding.”

That world was changing. In 1789, Boston for the first time, allowed girls to attend public schools. The fertility rate began declining. The American Revolution made possible a new world, a world of fewer obstacles, a world with a promise of equality. That required — and still requires — sympathy.

Benjamin Franklin died in Philadelphia in 1790, at the age of 84. In his will, he left Jane the house in which she lived. And then he made another bequest, more lasting: he gave one hundred pounds to the public schools of Boston.

Jane Mecom died in that house in 1794. Later, during a political moment much like this one, when American politics was animated by self-serving invocations of the founders, her house was demolished to make room for a memorial to Paul Revere.

Jill Lepore, a professor of American history at Harvard, is the author of “The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History.”
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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1784 Charles Willson Peale 1741-1827 Mrs. Elias Boudinot IV (Hannah Stockton) (1736-1808) Princeton

Monday, December 9, 2019

Jane Franklin Mecom 1712-1794 - Sister to Benjamin Franklin

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Jane Franklin Mecom (1712-1794), favorite sister of Benjamin Franklin, was born in Boston, the youngest of the 17 children of Josiah Franklin, tallow chandler, and of the 10 children of his second wife, Abiah Folger.

Her father had moved to Boston from Northamptonshire, England in 1683; her mother was born in Nantucket, the youngest child of one of the island’s first settlers.

Nothing is known of Jane’s schooling, but it must have been limited at best. Six years younger than Benjamin (1706-1790), she was 11, when he ran away to Philadelphia. Although they saw each other only occasionally during the rest of their lives, their mutual affection transcended time and distance. Their surviving correspondence is more extensive than that between Franklin and almost any other private person.

On July 27, 1727, at the age of fifteen, Jane was married to Edward Mecom (1704-1765), a Boston saddler. He was a colorless individual, poor in heath and in pocket. His major contribution to the family was the fathering of 12 children: Josiah, born in 1729, Edward, (1731), Benjamin (1732), Ebenezer (1735), Sarah (1737), Peter (1739), John (1741), a second Josiah (1743), Jane (1745), James (1746), Mary (1748), and Abiah (1751).

Until the outbreak of the Revolution, Jane Mecom’s life was almost wholly that of a housewife in a tradesman’s family of low income, preoccupied with the births, marriages, and deaths of children and grandchildren, with the struggle to provide food and clothing, and with her sons’ efforts to find careers.

The family lived with or close to her parents, who owned a group of houses at Hanover and Union streets. Here she cared for her father and mother until they died, and here she continued to live for several years, taking in boarders to eke out her husband’s slender income.

Three of her children died in infancy and others seem to have inherited, apparently from their father, physical and mental defects that brought their mother deep distress. Only 3 lived beyond their 33rd birthdays and 2 of these died insane. None of her sons was really successful in his trade, and her daughters were not much luckier in the men they married. “Sorrows roll upon me like the waves of the sea,” she wrote after the death of a daughter in 1767, but “God is sovereign, and I submit.”

When the siege of Boston began in the spring of 1775, Jane Mecom, for 10 years a widow, managed to leave the city with a few clothes and household effects and took refuge with friends in Rhode Island.

That autumn her brother, returning from a mission to Washington’s army at Cambridge, escorted her to Philadelphia, where she remained in his home until the British advanced on the city in September 1777. Then she returned to Rhode Island and lived with a married granddaughter.

In 1784, she reestablished her home in Boston. There, until her death, she lived in a house her brother owned, sharing it with her one surviving daughter, Jane, and the latter’s husband, Peter Collas, a rather inept ship’s captain.

Through all these troubled years Benjamin Franklin had helped her financially, sometimes with money, sometimes with goods she and her daughters could turn into profit,. In her later years he settled on her an annual income, and in his will be bequeathed to her the Boston house and a life income of 50 pounds.

She adored her brother, but stood a little in awe of him and of his fame. She never tried to understand all his scientific or political activities, but liked to read anything he had published. Like some other members of her family, she was sensitive to slights and criticisms -and sometimes was hurt at what he said about he behavior toward other relatives. Yet his conversation when they were together, his letters when they were apart, and his constant affection appeared to be the great joys in her life.

And she in turn was the one member of his family to whom he could talk and write without restraint. Judging by their surviving letters, more than his mother, his wife Deborah Reed Franklin, or his daughter Sarah Franklin Bache, his sister Jane gave him the feminine intimacy and understanding of a family member, that his nature seemed to crave.

Franklin's 1st known letter to his sister was upon her marriage...

Philadelphia, January 6, 1727
Dear Sister,
I am highly pleased with the account captain Freeman gives me of you. I always judged by your behavior when a child that you would make a good, agreeable woman, and you know you were ever my peculiar favorite.


I have been thinking what would be a suitable present for me to make, and for you to receive, as I hear you are grown a celebrated beauty. I had almost determined on a tea table, but when I considered that the character of a good housewife was far preferable to that of being only a pretty gentlewoman, I concluded to send you a spinning wheel, which I hope you will accept as a small token of my sincere love and affection.


Sister, farewell, and remember that modesty, as it makes the most homely virgin amiable and charming, so the want of it infallibly renders the most perfect beauty disagreeable and odious. But when that brightest of female virtues shines among other perfections of body and mind in the same person, it makes the woman more lovely than an angel. Excuse this freedom, and use the same with me.

I am, dear Jenny, your loving brother, B. Franklin

A few months after her brother's death, Jane wrote to his daughter Sarah Franklin Bache,

Dear Niece,

He while living was to me every enjoyment. Whatever other pleasures were, as they mostly took their rise from him, they passed like little streams from a beautiful fountain… To make society agreeable there must be a similarity of circumstances and sentiments, as well as age. I have no such near me; my dear brother supplied all...


This posting based on information from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971
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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1773 John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 Hannah Fayerweather Mrs John Winthrop Met

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Biography - Marylander Ann Teresa Mathews 1732-1800 Founder of the 1st US Roman Catholic Convent

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Marylander Ann Teresa Mathews (1732-1800), founder with Frances Dickinson (1755-1830), of the 1st Roman Catholic convent for women in the United States, was born in Charles County, one of 3 children of Joseph & Susannah (Craycroft) Mathews. Her father, who was descended from a Catholic family prominent in 17th-century Maryland, died when she was 2, leaving the family a 345-acre farm, a sparsely furnished house, & 2 slaves. Her widowed mother kept a deeply religious household, for her daughter, Ann, her son Ignatius, & 3 of her son William’s children entered religious life.

Although Maryland was originally settled as a refuge for Roman Catholics, since the 18th-century in Maryland, Roman Catholics were not permitted to hold public mass, & those who wished to train for a life in the church necessarily went abroad. Thus in 1754, Ann Mathews sailed to Hoogstraeten, Belgium, to enter the English monastery of the Discalced Carmelites, a contemplative order springing from the works & influence of the mystic St. Teresa of Spain. Its severe rules included a ban on shoes, hence the name Discalced. On Sept. 30 of that year she took the habit of the order & the name Bernardina Teresa Xavier of St. Joseph, & on Nov. 24, 1755, at age 23, she made her profession. Staying on at the convent, she served as mistress of novices before being elected prioress in 1774.

The Original Residence at Carmel Monestary & Chapel in Charles County, Maryland

Mother Bernardina began to think of founding an American carmel, as the Revolution had removed the disabilities of Roman Catholics in Maryland. Encouraged by some of the prominent Catholics in her state, as well as by her brother Ignatius, a Jesuit priest, she made plans for such a move with a former Charles County neighbor, Mary Brent, who as Mother Mary Margaret of the Angels had become prioress of the English carmel at Antwerp. Unfortunately Mother Margaret died in 1784, but Mother Bernardina’s nieces, Ann Teresa & Susanna Mathews, arrived that year at Hoogstraeten to make their professions & to join in the venture. Indispensable support came from the Rev. Charles Neale, a relative of Mother Bernardina & confessor to the Antwerp carmel. It was 1790, however, before sufficient money & the necessary authorizations were gathered for the founding of an American carmel. On April 19, 1790, 4 nuns, accompanied by Father Neale, left Hoogstraeten for the Maryland. They included Mother Bernardina, now 58, her two nieces, & Frances Dickinson.

Frances Dickinson, born in London, had assumed the Carmelite habit at Antwerp on May 1, 1772, when only 16, & with it the name Clare Joseph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her letters & a diary show that she possessed self-awareness & a sense of humor. By July 20, 1790, the nuns were at Chandler’s Hope, Father Neale’s childhood home in Charles County, on a hill overlooking the Port Tobacco River. Here, resuming their religious habit & practices, they established the first convent within the United States. As Chandler’s Hope quickly proved too small for their purposes, Baker Brooke, a Maryland Catholic offered them 886 acres & a newly built house a little farther up the Port Tobacco Valley. On Oct. 15, 1790, the 4 nuns moved to their new quarters, which they dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mary, & Joseph.

At the outset the nuns faced a critical decision, Maryland’s Bishop John Carroll had hoped that they would be willing to modify the rules of their order enough to allow them to teach. He gained a dispensation from Rome in 1793, but they asked not to make use of it & set themselves instead to the task of training newcomers to a life of prayer & contemplation. By 1794, a 2nd building was ready & four novices were admitted; by 1800 there were 14 nuns; & by 1818 the number had jumped to 23. The new arrivals brought family slaves & other property which, becoming part of the convent’s resources, made it nearly self-sufficient. In the Maryland countryside, there was less time for contemplation than in Belgium, but the nuns kept the Psalter before them, as they spun yarn from the wool of their own sheep to weave into cloth for their habits.

When Mother Bernardina died 1800, Bishop Carroll made Clare Joseph temporary prioress until her death 30 years later. For many years the little community flourished. In a letter to England in 1807, Mother Clare Joseph spoke of plentiful crops, of the pleasant & healthy situation, & of the advantages of its isolation “suitable to our eremitical Order.” In 1818, Archbishop Ambrose Marechal wrote with pride to Rome of the piety of the nuns.

A long & expensive lawsuit over their land (1818-29), however, brought financial difficulties; & the death in 1823, of Father Neale, was more than a spiritual loss, for the plantation began to be insufficient for the support of the convent. Mother Clare Joseph died there in 1830; & in 1831, the carmel moved to Baltimore.

Most of the later carmels in the United States have sprung from this convent or its branches, so that Ann Mathews & Frances Dickinson established the Carmelite order in the United States. Although in Baltimore the nuns were finally obliged for a time to teach in order to maintain themselves, Carmelite traditions & training in the contemplative life had been well established during previous 4 decades.

As they left in 1831, according to an almanac published by the nuns, there was a tradition in southern Maryland, that the faithful would pray for the return of the nuns. In 1933, the people of Charles County began to restore the original monastery residence, and the nuns did return in 1976. The monastery in Charles County, Maryland, is still the active home of the discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Carmel of Port Tobacco, who do not teach or have contact with the public.

This posting based, in part, on information from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971
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Friday, December 6, 2019

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Biography - Sophia Wigington Hume (1702-1774) South Carolina Quaker Minister & Religious Writer

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Sophia Wigington Hume (1702-1774), Quaker minister & religious writer, was born in Charleston, SC., one of the children of Henry Wigington (Wiginton), a prosperous landowner & colony official, & Susanna (Bayley) Wigington. Henry Wigington was an Anglican; his wife had been brought up as a Quaker by her mother, Mary Fisher, who had been a minister in England before settling with her second husband in Charleston. Sophia Wigington was reared an Anglican & given an education fit for a young lady of fashion. She was married in 1721, to Robert Hume, a lawyer, landowner, & public official. Two of their children lived to adulthood: Susanna Wigington, born in 1722, & Alexander Wigington, 1729.


Though her mother returned to Quakerism before 1719, & tried to lead her children in that direction, Sophia Wigington Hume for a time remained a faithful Anglican. By her own account she practiced “the art of japanning with Prints,” lived books & music, delighted in plays & balls, passionately enjoyed fine clothes & jewelry, & walked aristocratically “with mincing Steps & outstretched Neck.” During two illnesses, however, she came to believe that these frivolities endangered her soul. The second crisis, which took place about 1740, three years after her husband’s death, led to a conversion that preoccupied her mind for the rest of her life. Believing that God would spare her only if she would forsake vanity for Quaker simplicity, she burned “the most vile” of her finery, but being a widow in reduced circumstances could not resist the temptation to sell her “Watch & Equipage chased with Heathenish Devices, as also Diamond ornament etc.” Shortly after her recovery she moved to England, where she lived in London near her daughter & finally joined the Society of Friends.

Sophia Hume became a public figure reluctantly in 1747, when she felt a divine call to return to Charleston to reprove the self-indulgences of the inhabitants & call them to repentance. She obeyed the call, even though it meant humiliating herself on the scene of her former elegance. Arriving near the end of the year, she carried out he mission at public meetings in spite of some rude interruptions. She also inspired the city’s small Quaker group to reviver regular worship. To spread her message farther, she wrote An Exhortation to the Inhabitants of the Province of South-Carolina &, to get it printed quickly, took the manuscript to Philadelphia. She spent several happy months in that city & in travel to attend nearby religious meetings & was entertained by leading Friends, who also raised money to publish her book. It was printed before the end of 1748 (& in five later editions in England & America); the author arrived home in London in December or January.

Though she preached publicly in South Carolina & Pennsylvania, Sophia Hume did not receive recognition as a minister from her monthly meeting in London until later, possibly not until 1763. As early as 1752, though, her utterances settled on two topics: decrying luxury & warning its devotees of their dangers; & exhorting Friends to renew sectarian strictness, a theme which probably explains the increasing respect for her ministry as zeal for this goal spread during the 1760’s. Her writings, while always frankly advocating Quaker principles, for the most part developed the first of these topics & were addressed to Christians at large. The Exhortation, with its parade of long quotations from the learned & its extensive examinations of Scripture, actually conveyed a fairly simple appeal for repentance & reformation, its strength derived from Sophia Hume’s lifelong gift for strong phrases & intense, incantation prose.

A Caution to Such as Observe Days & Times (published in its final form c. 1763) was briefer & better organized; though first written to denounce religious festivals, in the later editions it proceeded to offer incisive remarks on a number of theological & social topics. The social ethics were largely traditional, but she expounded a Quaker view of conversion with an unusual emphasis on the "rational pleasure & divine delight” produced by the irradiation of the believer by Christ’s light & the benevolence to all mankind that resulted from true love of God.

Among Quaker women of her day, Sophia Hume had an extraordinary knowledge of the arts, literature, & theology-to some extent the product of her years as an Anglican. Although conversion curbed & guided her intellectual pursuits within limits approved by Quakers, she yet found it hard to justify erudition in a woman-& harder to justify her public life-by her own principles. The result was a paradoxical career: as minister & write she upheld the traditional view that woman should lead a secluded life devoted to home & church; as a Quaker bluestocking she expounded Scripture & culled quotations from ancient & modern Christian writers to defend her sect & its tenet that the indwelling spirit of Christ is the most reliable source of religious truth.

She felt a divine call to service in Charleston again in 1767. The situation was dire: the fellowship of Friends there had dwindled to one, the old wooden meetinghouse was dilapidated, & a backslider claimed to own the land on which it stood. Though often compelled to rest her slight & ailing body, Sophia Hume managed to revive interest in Quakerism by preaching to large public meetings, & tried to persuade London & Philadelphia Friends to replace the old structure with a brick meetinghouse that would stand until God might gather a church to use it. Unable to win support for this plan, she embarked for England in April 1768. She died in 1774, presumably in London, of a seizure described as apoplexy. Her body was interred in Friends’ Burial Ground near Bunhill Fields.

This posting based, in part, on information from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971
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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Biography - Writer, Preacher, & Mantua Maker Bethsheba Bowers 1672-1718

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Quaker author and preacher Bathsheba Bowers was born in 1672, in Massachusettes, and died at age 46 in 1718, in South Carolina. She was one of 12 children born to Benanuel Bowers and his wife Elizabeth Dunster.

Her mother Elizabeth was a young orphan sent from England to live with her uncle Henry Dunster, who was the president of Harvard College between 1640 and 1654, and spent the last few years of his life as a pastor in Scituate, Massachusettes.

Her father, Benanuel Bowers, was a determined Quaker who fled England to settle in Charlestown, near Boston, Massachusettes, only to find a flurry of Puritan persecution. Seven of their children grew to adulthood amid the threats and violence which surrounded their family.

Benanuel Bowers was a militant Quaker defender and suffered much for his religion by fine, whip, and prison. Like his daughter Bathsheba, he enjoyed writing. Some of his letters are preserved in the Middlesex County Courthouse. One addressed to Thomas Danforth the magistrate, is dated March 3, 1677, when little Bathsheba was only five.

Bathsheba's father owned 20 acres in Charlestown. He suffered fines repeatedly and imprisonment for various offences, such as absenting himself from meeting, and giving a cup of milk to a poor Quaker woman who had been whipped and imprisoned two days and nights without food or water.

As personal animosities and community hatred of Quakers began to increase, the Bowers decided to send 4 of their daughters to Philadelphia, which had a large and welcoming Quaker community.

Much of what we know about Bathsheba Bowers comes from the letter journal of her niece, Ann Curtis Clay Bolton, the daughter of Bathsheba's sister Elizabeth Anna who married Wenlock Curtis of Philadelphia. This diary is in the form of letters addressed to her physician, Dr. Anderson, of Maryland, the first of which was written in 1739.

Ann Bolton, wrote of her aunt's description of her immigrant grandfather, "My Grandfather, Benanuel Bowers was born in England of honest Parents, but his father, being a man of stern temper, and a rigid Oliverian, obliged my Grandfather (who out of a pious zeal, turned to the religion of the Quakers) to flee for succour into New England...


"He purchased a farm near Boston and then married. Both were Quakers. The Zealots of the Presbyterian party ousted them. They escaped with their lives, though not without whippings, and imprisonments, and the loss of a great part of their worldly substance...


"When my Grandfather was grown old, he sent, with his wife's consent, four of his eldest daughters to Philadelphia, hearing a great character of Friends in this city. Their eldest daughter married Timothy Hanson and settled on a plantation near Frankford. Their youngest daughter was married to George Lownes of Springfield, Chester Co."

But Bathsheba Bowers remained single. Anna wrote that she was of "middle stature" and "beautiful when young," but singularly stern and morose. "She was crossed in love when she was about eighteen...


"She seemed to have little regard for riches, but her thirst for knowledge being boundless after she had finished her house and Garden, and they were as beautiful as her hands cou'd make them, or heart could wish, she retired herself in them free from Society as if she had lived in a Cave under Ground or on the top of a high mountain, but as nothing ever satisfied her so about half a mile distant under Society Hill She built a Small (country) house close by the best Spring of Water perhaps as was in our City.


"This house she furnished with books a Table a Cup in which she or any that visited her (but they were few, and seldom drank of that Spring). What name she gave her new house I know not but some People gave it the name of Bathsheba's Bower (for you must know her Name was Bathsheba Bowers) but some a little ill Natured called it Bathsheba's folly.


"As for the place it has ever since bore the name of Bathsheba's Spring or Well—for like Absalom I suppose she was willing to have something to bear up her Name, and being too Strict a virtuoso could not expect fame and favour here by any methods than such of her own raising and spreading.


"Those motives I suppose led her about the same time to write the History of her Life (in which she freely declared her failings) with her own hand which was no sooner finished than Printed and distributed about the world Gratis."

Ann described her aunt as a hard taskmaster, with whom she lived as a young girl until she was 13. Aunt Bathsheba was a gardener and a vegetarian for the last 20 years of her life. She was also a fine seamstress and made her living in Philadelphia making mantuas. A mantua (from the French Manteuil ) is an article of women's clothing worn in the late seventeenth century and early eighteenth century. Originally it was a loose gown, the later mantua was an overgown or robe typically worn over an underdress or stomacher and petticoat.

Although Bathsheba Bowers was a Quaker by profession, Ann reported that she was, "so Wild in her Notions it was hard to find out of what religion she really was of. She read her Bible much but I think sometimes to no better purpose than to afford matter for dispute in w[hich] she was always positive."

In New York in 1709, Philadelphia Quaker William Bradford published a 23 page booklet by Bathsheba Bowers entitled "An Alarm Sounded to Prepare the Inhabitants of the World to Meet the Lord in the Way of His Judgment" along with a history of her life and other writings. In the same year, Bathsheba Bowers became a Quaker preacher, taking her ministry to South Carolina, where she would live for nearly 10 years. Because she made her living as a mantua maker, she could pick up that trade in her new homeplace.

Ann wrote of one of her aunt's experiences in South Carolina. "She had a belief she could never die. She removed to South Carolina where the Indians Early one morning surprised the place—killed and took Prisoners several in the house adjoining to her. Yet she moved not out of her Bed, but when two Men offered their assistance to carry her away, she said Providence would protect her, and indeed so it proved at that time, for those two men no doubt by the Direction of providence took her in her Bed for she could not rise, conveyed her into their Boat and carried her away in Safety tho' the Indians pursued and shot after them."

Bathsheba Bowers lives on through her autobiography. She used the conventions of the established New England spiritual autobiography to trace her journey through life as a series of fears to be overcome and to set an example that others might follow. She compared herself to Job outlining a progression of divinely predestined tests which eventually placed her in a personal relationship with God. Bathsheba Bowers overcame fears of nudity, death, hell, pride, and even preaching, writing, and publishing to attain her spiritual self-control.

She claimed that her most difficult struggle was with her own ambition. While she saw publication of her spiritual autobiography as a triumph over her personal fears, she worried about the potential scorn it might bring on her, "...tis best known to my self how long I labored under a reluctancy, and how very unwilling I was to appear in print at all; for it was, indeed, a secret terror to...hear my Reputation called in question, without being stung to the heart." Perhaps this is why she moved from Philadelphia to South Carolina just as her autobiography was published.

Although Bathsheba Bowers's work joined the spiritual autobiographies written by women in New England as a means of joining a congregation, Bathsheba's booklet added a Quaker perspective to the intensely personal genre. Her writings also included poetry just as American Anne Bradstreet had published before her. English Quakers, men and women, published their spiritual struggles in journals, but early 18th century American Quaker women rarely published their writings.

Bethsheba's diary is in the form of letters addressed to her physician, Dr. Anderson, of Maryland, the first of which was written in 1739. It begins:

"For some reason perhaps Dr. not unknown to you I step out of the common Road and first Mention my family on my Mother's side.

"My Grandffather Benanuel Bowers was Born in England of honest Parents but his father being a Man of a Stern temper, and a rigid Oliverian Obliged my Grandfather (who out of a Pious zeal turned to the religion of the Quakers) to flee for succor into New England.

"My Grandmother's name was Elizabeth Dunster; She was Born in Lancashire in Old England, but her Parents dying when she was young her Unkle Dunster, who was himself at that time President of the College in New England, sent for her thither and discharged his Duty to her not only in that of a kind Unkle but a good Christian and tender father. By all reports he was a man of great Wisdom, exemplary Piety, and peculiar sweetness of temper.

"My Grandfather not long after his coming to New England purchased a farm near Boston, and then married my Grandmother, tho they had but a small beginning yet God So blest them that they increased in substance, were both Devout Quakers and famous for their Christian Charity and Liberality to people of all perswasions on religion who to Escape the Stormy Wind and tempest that raged horribly in England flocked thither."


The writer also speaking of her grandparents..."the outrage and violence of fiery zealots of the Presbyterian Party who then had the ruling power in their own hands, however they slept with their lives tho' not without Cruel whippings and imprisonment and the loss of part of their worldly substance."

See: The Life of Mrs. Robert Clay, afterwards Mrs. Robert Bolton Author: Ann Bolton and the Rev. Jehu Curtis Bolton Publication: Philadelphia, 1928. Copy at the Universtiy of Maryland.
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