Saturday, February 23, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women with a book

1750 Joseph Badger 1708-1765 Mrs. Nathaniel Brown (Anna Porter Brown) San Fran Fine Arts

Often, women were taught to read so that they could learn the Bible, but few were taught to write, as it was thought there was no reason for a woman to know how to write. A colonial woman was expected to be subservient to her father until she married, at which point she became subservient to her husband. Ministers often told their congregations that women were inferior to men and more inclined to sin and err.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Sexual Politics-Mohawk-Style 1754

Hendrick Theyanoguin  Chief of the Mohawk Indians, published in London in 1755 

The British American colonial government convened a conference in Albany, New York, in the summer of 1754. French troops had occupied the Ohio valley; while the Indians in New York had declared the Covenant chain alliance broken.

Hendrick, a Mohawk leader among the Iroquois Confederation, wanted to renew the alliance between the Iroquois & the colonists. But in his speech at the meeting, he called the British weak. Soon the Seven Year's War would involve the French, the British colonists, & the Native Americans in a war that would also be called The French & Indian War.

Mohawk Hendrick:
Then Hendrick, brother to the said Abraham, and a Sachem of the same castle, rose up and spake in behalf of the Six Nations as follows:
"Brethren, This is the ancient place of treaty where the fire of friendship always used to burn, and it is now three years since we have been called to any public treaty here; ‘tis true, there are commissioners here, but they have never invited us to smoke with them (by which they mean, the commissioners had never invited them to any conference), but the Indians of Canada came frequently and smoked with them, which is for the sake of their beaver, but we hate them (meaning the French Indians)

We have not as yet confirmed the peace with them: ’tis your fault, brethren, we are not strengthened by conquest, for we should have gone and taken Crown Point, but you hindered us: We had concluded to go and take it; but we were told it was too late, and that the ice would not bear us. Instead of this you burnt your own fort at Saraghtogee and run away from it; which was shame and a scandal to you. Look about your country, and see you have no fortifications about you, no not even to this city. 'Tis but one step from Canada hither, and the French may easily come and turn you out of doors.

"Brethren, You desired us to speak from the bottom of our hearts, and we shall do it. Look about you, and see all these houses full of beaver, and money is all gone to Canada; likewise your powder, lead, and guns, which the French make use of at the Ohio.


“Brethren, You were desirous we should open our minds and our hearts to you; look at the French, they are men; they are fortifying every where; but we are ashamed to say it; you are like women, bare and open, without any fortifications.”


Source: Jeptha Root Simms, History of Schoharie County, and the Border Wars of New York. Albany: Munsell & Tanner, 1845.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

18C American Women with a Book

1750 Joseph Badger 1708-1765 Faith Savage Waldo Mrs Cornelius Worcester Mus Art

Thomas Jefferson, who knew that reading was important, drafted a Virginia Assembly bill in the 1770s, titled “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge,” that began:  Those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people of large.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Infanticide - The Execution of Boston's Rebekah Chablit 1733

Rebekah Chamblit (ca.1706-1733) lived in Boston, Massachusetts. She was tried and executed in 1733 for infanticide. Her "declaration," reportedly "read at the place of execution," September 26th, 1733, may not have been in fact written by Chamblit herself; scholars suggest the text represents a forced or fictional confession in an extremely patriarchal society.

Chamblit was 27 years old and unmarried. According to society norms, she should have remained celibate. Her declaration was a broadside prepared by ministers to be as widely distributed as possible. It was the middle of the Great Awakening, when women were gaining some religious recognition & power, as traditional Puritan ministers were losing some of their power. Reportedly the ministers posed questions to Chamblit, as she walked to the gallows & stood on a ladder waiting to be hung. She answered as long as she could, saying what they wanted to hear. Then she "grew disordered and faint, and not capable of attending further to continu'd discourse."

Infanticide was certainly not a new phenomenon. From 1728 to 1800, the Pennsylvania Gazette published approximately one hundred accounts of infanticide. The Gazette did not identify women accused of infanticide as single or unmarried, but usually it identified their deceased infants as “bastards.” In fact, 60% of accounts describe the deceased infant as a “bastard.” For centuries, unwed mothers in Europe had occasionally killed their offspring, because they were unable to face the ignominy of raising an illegitimate child. As legal & cultural responses to crime changed by the 18C, unwed and impoverished mothers might abandon the baby on some local doorstep hoping that the newborn would receive a more healthy upbringing with a different family.  Infanticide narratives written in New England colonies & states are particularly revealing. In most infanticide narratives, the murder of the child is not mentioned. The woman is charged with having led an "unclean" life which warrants her execution.

Though there is documentation that women from different socio-economic statuses committed infanticide, women convicted of infanticide were commonly young, unmarried, lower class women who had labor-intensive jobs. These women often did not have the patriarchal protection of their father because they were servants and lived outside of their family home. If a servant woman became pregnant, not only did she work a labor intensive job that did not allow for her to properly care for an infant, but she often also faced additional years of servitude as punishment for having a child outside of wedlock.

Female deviations from the norm, even after the witch hunts had subsided, sometimes were met with extreme consequences, especially when the traditional power of the dominant males was being threatened. The details contained in Chamblit's purported declaration seem calculated to fit within the Massachusetts Bastard Neonaticde Act exactly as written, thereby completely justifying her hanging.

The declaration, dying warning and advice of Rebekah Chamblit. A young woman aged near twenty-seven years, executed at Boston September 27th. 1733. According to the sentence pass'd upon her at the Superior Court holden there for the county of Suffolk, in August last, being then found guilty of felony, in concealing the birth of her spurious male infant, of which she was delivered when alone the eighth day of May last, and was afterwards found dead, as will more fully appear by the following declaration, which was carefully taken from her own mouth. Boston: Printed and sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green, in Queen-Street, 1733. 

 "On Saturday The Fifth day of May last, being then something more than Eight Months gone with Child, as I was about my Household Business reaching some Sand from out of a large Cask, I received considerable Hurt, which put me into great Pain, and so I continued till the Tuesday following; in all which time I am not sensible I felt any Life or Motion in the Child within me; when on the Said Tuesday the Eighth of may, I was Deliver'd when alone of a Male infant; in whom I did not perceive Life; but still uncertain of Life in it, I threw it into the Vault about two or three Minutes after it was born; uncertain I as, whether it was a living or dead child; Tho' I confess it was probable there was Life in it, and some Circumstances seem to confirm it. I therefore own the Justice of GOD and Man in my Condemnation, and take Shame to my self, as I have none but my self to Blame; and am Sorry for any rash Expressions I have at any time uttered since my Condemnation; and I am verily persuaded there is no Place in the World, where there is a More strict regard to Justice than in this Province."

See:
Cornelia Hughes Dayton, Women before the Bar: Gender, Law, and Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995);
Katie M. Hemphill, “Driven to the Commission of This Crime.,” Journal of the Early Republic 32, no. 3 (Fall 2012);
N. E. H Hull, Female Felons: Women and Serious Crime in Colonial Massachusetts (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987);
Laura T. Keenan, “Reconstructing Rachel: A Case of Infanticide in the Eighteenth-Century MidAtlantic and the Vagaries of Historical Research, Pennsylvania Magazine of History & Biography 130, no. 4 (October 2006);
Paul A. Gilje, “Infant Abandonment in Early Nineteenth-Century New York City: Three Cases,” Signs 8, no. 3 (April 1, 1983);
Peter Charles Hoffer and N. E. H Hull, Murdering Mothers:  Infanticide in England and New England, 1558-1803 (New York: New York University Press, 1981);
Sharon Ann Burnston, “Babies in the Well: An Underground Insight into Deviant Behavior in Eighteenth Century Philadelphia,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 106, no. 2 (April 1, 1982).
S. Rowe, “Infanticide, Its Judicial Resolution, and Criminal Code Revision in Early Pennsylvania,”
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 135, no. 2 (June 1, 1991);
Melissa Sigona, "Mothers Who Kill: Infanticide in the Pennsylvania Gazette,1728-1800" UC Irvine - Undergraduate History Conference  2015;
Merril D. Smith “Unnatural Mothers,"  in Over the Threshold: Intimate Violence in Early America, (New York: Routledge, 1999)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

1750 Portrait of an American Woman & Theocracy

1750 John Wollaston 1733-1767 Experience Johnson (1720-1788) Mrs. Samuel Gouverneur (1720-1798) at Winterthur

Experience Johnson of New Jersey, married New York merchant Samuel Gouverneur, son of Isaac, in 1748.  Her grandfather the Rev Joseph Johnson of the Old First Presbyterian Church in Newark had been one of the founders of Newark, New Jersey. The original settlers in Newark, from Branford & Milford Connecticut, came to Newark, because they opposed the absorption of their communities by the Colony of Connecticut. Newark was founded in 1667 with its laws based on the Scripture & with full citizenship granted to only church members.  The church was Newark's 1st public building. For the first 40 years all affairs of the town were held in the church. This organization was said to be the last attempt in colonial America to establish a theocracy.

Her husband's father Isaac was descended from a French Huguenot family & was born in Amsterdam.  He immigrated to colonial America where he was an active merchant trading in the West Indies. Samuel & Experience's children were Isaac, born 1749, died 1800. Margaret, married Lewis Ogden. Nicholas, born 1753, died 1802. Mary, wife of Rev. Uzal Ogden. Anthony, born 1757, died 1795. Catherine, wife of Charles Ogden. Gertrude, wife of Peter Kemble. Rebecca, wife of Captain Thomas Bibby. Sarah, married Major Samuel Reading. Samuel, born 1771, died 1847. And Joseph.

The term theocracy often was applied to the governments established in 17C Massachusetts Bay & New Haven colonies. These colonies were not theocracies in the traditional sense, because clergy did not establish or run their political systems. In both colonies, there was a clear separation of church & state. In Massachusetts, for instance, clergy were forbidden to hold public office, & both colonies maintained separate systems of political & religious leadership. But it was also true that these political & religious systems were mutually reinforcing, & that early leaders hoped that every institution of their societies—the family, the church, & the magistracy—would function in concert to maintain a pious society based on Calvinist theology & Christian religious practice.

Colonial leaders deliberately intended to create a society in which the fundamental law would be the revealed Word of God, & God would be regarded as the supreme legislator. Thus, John Winthrop announced before the settlement, "For the worke wee haue in hand, it is by a mutuall consent …to seeke out a place of Cohabitation & Consorteshipp under a due forme of Government both ciuill & ecclesiastical;" the "due forme" was that enacted in the Bible. John Cotton later argued that the New England colonies, having a clear field before them, were duty bound to erect a "Theocracy … as the best forme of government in the commonwealth, as well as in the Church." Consequently, the political theory assumed that the colonies were based on the Bible & that all specific laws would show biblical warrant.

The governments of these two colonies were founded on the theory that God had ordained all society as a check on depraved human impulses &, therefore, that all politics should ideally fulfill God's will. Hence, Winthrop explained in 1645, that after people entered a body politic, they gained the freedom to do only that "which is good, just & honest"—in other words, that which God demands. The purpose of the state was to enforce God's will, & to ensure that every member of society would observe God's laws.

See:
Foster, Stephen. The Long Argument: English Puritanism & the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570–1700. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.
Gildrie, Richard P. The Profane, the Civil, & the Godly: The Reformation of Manners in Orthodox New England, 1679–1749. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
Miller, Perry. The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century. New York: Macmillan, 1939.
Noll, Mark A. A History of Christianity in the United States & Canada. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Biography - Revolutionary Soldier Deborah Sampson 1760-1827

Deborah Sampson (1760-1827) became a hero of the American Revolution when she disguised herself as a man and joined the Patriot forces. She was the only woman to earn a full military pension from the new nation for participation in the Revolutionary army.

Deborah Sampson (1760-1827), supposed Revolutionary soldier & early woman lecturer, was born in Plympton, near Plymouth, Mass., the oldest, apparently, of 3 daughters & 3 sons of Jonathan Sampson, a farmer, & Deborah (Bradford) Sampson.  She came of old Pilgrim stock, her mother being descended from Gov. William Bradford & her father from Miles Standish & John Alden.  

Jonathan Sampson’s disappointment in his share of his father’s estate was so corrosive that he fell into intemperate habits, went to sea, & finally abandoned his family, perhaps losing his life in a shipwreck. Mrs. Sampson, finding it difficult to support her young family, was obliged to disperse her children into different households.

Deborah lived for 3 years with a Miss Fuller & afterward, at about 10, was bound out as a servant in the homed of Jeremiah Thomas of Middleborough, where she remained until she was 18.  Here she developed into a strong, capable young woman, skilled in the domestic arts.  Part-time attendance at the Middleborough public school, supplemented by instruction from the Thomas children, enabled her to obtain some education, & when her term of service in the Thomas family expired in 1779, she taught for 6 months in the same local school.  In November 1780 she became a member of the First Baptist Church of Middleborough.   Two years later (Sept. 3, 1782) this body excommunicated her on the strong suspicion of “dressing in men’s clothes, & enlisting as a soldier in the Army,” after having “for some time before behaved verry loose & unchristian like.”  By then she had disappeared from Middleborough.
Deborah Sampson Delivers a Letter to Commanders

The venturesome young woman had, it seems, walked to Boston & from there to Bellingham, Mass., where on May 20, 1782, she enlisted in the Continental forces under the name of Robert Shurtleff (Shirtliff).  A member of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment, Capt. George Webb’s company, she was mustered into service at Worcester on May 23.  Her height, which was above the average, her strong features, her stamina, & her remarkable adaptability enabled her to conceal her identify & perform her military duties.  She participated in several engagements & was wounded in one near Tarrytown, N.Y.  Not until she was hospitalized with a fever in Philadelphia was her sex finally discovered.  She was discharged by Gen. Henry Knox at West Point on Oct. 25, 1783.

On her return to Massachusetts in November, she went to live with an uncle at Sharon.  Here she resumed female attire, met Benjamin Gannett, a farmer, & was married to him on Apr. 7, 1785.  Three children were born to them: Earl Bradford, Mary, & Patience.  Reports of Deborah Sampson’s adventure began to attract attention, & in 1797 Herman Mann, to whom she had told her story, published a romanticized biography under the title The Female Review.  Mann next prepared a lecture for her which told her story in extravagant phraseology extended beyond the bounds of truth.  Beginning with an appearance at the Federal Street Theatre in Boston, on Mar. 22, 1802, she toured various New England & New York towns until Sept. 9, giving her  “Address” as advertised in the local press.  Besides b ringing her some remuneration & considerable personal satisfaction, the trip enabled her to visit one of her former commanding officers, Gen. John Paterson, who probably assisted her in obtaining a pension from the United States government. 

Her first pension came from Massachusetts, which in 1792 awarded her the sum of 34 pounds bearing interest from Oct. 3, 1783.  In 1804 Paul Revere wrote to a member of Congress in behalf of Deborah Gannett, who was then in poor health & financial difficulties.  On Mar, 11, 1805, she was placed on the pension list of the United States at the rate of four dollars per month, beginning Jan. 1, 1803; the amount was afterward increased.  After her death her husband petitioned the federal government for a pension, representing himself to be in indigent circumstances, with two daughters dependent on his charity; he declared that for many years he had paid heavy medical bills for his wife, whose sickness & suffering were occasioned by her military service.  The belated response of Congress was an “Act for the relief of the heirs of Deborah Gannett, a solider of the Revolution, deceased,” approved July 7, 1838, which provided for a payment of $466.66, the equivalent of a full pension of eighty dollars per annum, from Mar. 4, 1831, to the decease of Benjamin Gannett in January 1837.  This sum was paid to the three heirs, Earl. B Gannett, Mary Gilbert, & Patience Gay.  Deborah herself had died in Sharon in 1827 at the age of sixty-six.  

See: 
Bellesiles, Michael. "Sampson, Deborah." Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. Ed. Harold E. Selesky. Vol. 2. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006. 1026. U.S. History in Context. 
Berkin, Carol. Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005).
Keiter, Jane. “Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier: The Westchester Connection.” The Best of the Westchester Historian. Winter 2000 (Vol. 76, No. 1). 
Leonard, Patrick. “Deborah Samson: Official Heroine of the State of Massachusetts.” Canton Historical Society. 
Eds. Edward James, Janet James, Paul Boyer. Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women

1750 Millicent Conway Gordon (c 1721-1748) by John Hesselius (1728-1778). Signed and dated “J. Hesselius Pinx/1750” at lower right. VA Hist Soc

Millicent Gordon (born Conway) was born in 1727, at Lancaster County, Virginia, to Colonel Edwin Conway III & Ann Susanna Conway (born Ball). Colonel was born on October 3 1681, in Christ Church, Lancaster, VA. Ann was born on October 3 1686, in Millenbeck, Lancaster, Virginia. Millicent married James Gordon IV in 1742. James was born in 1714, in Sheepbridge, Newry, Down Co., Ireland. He was a merchant, tobacco exporter, planter, & Justice of the Peace. They had 4 children. Millicent passed away on month day 1748, at age 27. James died in 1768.

The Virginia Museum of History & Culture tells us that the Gordon portraits depict the family of an Ulster merchant & planter of Scottish origin who emigrated to Lancaster County in 1738. Through trade with merchants in the British Isles & the West Indies, voracious land purchasing, & active public service, James Gordon quickly rose to prominence, which he celebrated in 1751 by commissioning a sizeable group of large, expensive portraits of himself, his successive wives, his 3 children, & his brother who had emigrated with him. Posed in contemporary clothing before grandiose, artificial settings of an outdated 17C portrait tradition, the sitters seem provincial.  The commission for the Gordon portraits seems to have resulted simply from the sudden availability in Virginia in 1751 & 1752 of a competent artist, either John Hesselius or Robert Feke. Both appeared in the colony at this time; Hesselius emulated the style of the much more accomplished Feke. Hesselius’s practice of the John Wollaston [English-born American Rococo Era Painter, c1710-1775] style in Virginia & Maryland continued until the mid-to-late 1760s, when his work began to shift toward likenesses that were increasingly penetrating & realistic. 

For family history, see: Hayden, Horace Edwin. Virginia genealogies : a genealogy of the Glassell family of Scotland and Virginia: also of the families of Ball, Brown, Bryan, Conway, Daniel, Ewell, Holladay, Lewis, Littlepage, Moncure, Peyton, Robinson, Scott, Taylor, Wallace, and others, of Virginia and Maryland. (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.: E.B. Yordy, printer, 1891), p. 248

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Biography - Politics was her Passion - Deborah Norris Logan (1761-1839)

Detail of 1903 photograph of an 1830 painting of Quaker historian Deborah Norris Logan.

Deborah Norris Logan (1761-1839), collector of historical records, was peculiarly fitted by inheritance & experience to be a chronicler of provincial & early national history.  Related by blood or marriage to most of the leading figures in early Pennsylvania, she lived through the formative years of the new American nation in close association with many of its founders.  She was the second child & only daughter among the Norris & his second wife, Mary Parker.  Her father’s Philadelphia house, where she was born, was 2 doors away fro the State House; on July 9, 1776, when she was 14, she stood on the garden fence to hear the Declaration of Independence first publicly claimed.

She commenced her education under Anthony Benezet at the Friends Girls’ School in Philadelphia & continued it by an extensive self-imposed course of reading, especially in history.  On Sept. 6, 1781, she was married to George Logan, a young Quaker physician just returned from his medical education at Edinburgh & London.  

Two years later, her husband giving up his practice for the life of a gentleman farmer, they moved to Stenton, the Logan family mansion north of Philadelphia.  There the vivacious & beautiful Debby exchanged the life of a Philadelphia belle for the quite domesticity of a Quaker matron, managing the farm household & rearing her 3 sons, Albanus Charles, Gustavus George, & Algernon Sidney, while her husband gradually moved from a rustic life of agricultural experimentation into an active career as a Republican politician & ideologue, self-appointed peacemaker during the quasi-war with France in 1798, & finally United States Senator.  Dr. Logan’s political enthusiasms (which she never fully shared) exposed her to public opprobrium; his mission to Paris not only made her fear for his safety & reputation but brought her ostracism from the Federalist families among whom she had grown up.  Nevertheless, she upheld him faithfully, at the same time seeking for herself a serenity of mind into which she could  retire “as into a safe retreat from the conflicting passions of the world.”

Though she regarded current politics as a dangerous “distraction,” past politics became her passion.  In the attic at Stenton she discovered heaps of old letters, tattered & worm-eaten, which she recognized as the correspondence of Pennsylvania’s 2 great early leaders, William Penn & James Logan, the latter her husband’s grandfather.  Conceiving it her duty & privilege to reveal “some of the remote rills & fountains” from which “majestic river” of her state’s wealth & greatness flowed, she regularly arose before daybreak, starting in 1814, to copy the voluminous correspondence.  Her transcripts, a source collection of the utmost importance for early Pennsylvania history, she presented to the American Philosophical Society; they were ultimately published in the Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (vols. IX-X, 1870-72).  

After her husband’s death in 1821 she wrote a memoir of him, published many years later by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania as Memoirs of Dr. George Logan of Stanton  (1899).  A charming literary monument of wifely devotion, it is also a valuable historical source, for it contains letters & intimate glimpses of Washington , Jefferson, Citizen Genet, John Randolph of Roanoke, & other political figures whom she & her husband had entertained at Stenton.
   
From 1815 to her death she kept a full diary in which, along with comments on her reading & her daily life, she set down the reminiscences of Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress; unfortunately, perhaps, she later inked out some of his less edifying anecdotes of the Fathers.  Some of Thomson’s stories, together with her own memories & the manuscripts she had rescued from decay, she shared with the antiquarian John F. Watson, who made use of the in his Annals of Philadelphia (1830).  She also composed poetry, some of which was published by her friend Robert Walsh, editor of the National Gazette; she had a fondness for the sonnet form, though it seemed to her like “putting the muse into corsets.”  A portrait in later life shows her as a grave, clear-eyed Quaker matron in plain bonnet & cap.  She died at Stenton & was buried there in the family burying ground.  The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, of which she was the first woman member (elected to honorary membership, 1827), spread on its minutes a tribute to her as “an enlightened & able illustrator” of Pennsylvania history.  With such writers & collectors as Mercy Otis Warren, Jeremy Belknap, & Ebenezer Hazard, Deborah Logan stood in the 1st generation of Americans who looked backward with self-conscious national pride into the colonial &  Revolutionary past & gathered the materials for the nation’s history. 

See: Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Eds. Edward James, Janet James, Paul Boyer. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women

1749-1752 John Wollaston. 1733-1767 Anna French Mrs. Joseph Reade  Met

In 1720, Anna French (1701–1778) married Joseph Reade (1694-1771) a merchant, vestryman, & politician from New York. Anna was the daughter of Phillip French, who served as the Mayor of New York City from 1702 to 1703, & Annetje (née Philipse) French, the daughter of Frederick Philipse, 1st Lord of Philipsburg Manor, a Dutch merchant & one of the richest men in colonial New York. Anna was the sister of Philip French III, who married Susanna Brokholst, daughter of Anthony Brockholst, acting Governor of Colonial New York under Sir Edmund Andros. Together, they were the parents of 7 children, including:
Laurence Reade (c. 1721–1773), a merchant in partnership with Richard Yates. Laurence fathered 3 children he had with "a mulatto woman on the Island of Jamaica."
Joseph Reade.
John Reade.
Anne Reade (1726–1772), who married Gerrit Van Horne (1726–1765)
Sarah Reade (1728–1802), who married James de Peyster (1726–1799), a grandson of New York mayor Abraham de Peyster.
Mary Reade, who married Francis Stephens.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine's Day - 18C American Couple

1795 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) Angelica Peale and her husband Alexander Robinson.

Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, tells us that in 1795, the artist Charles Willson Peale traveled from Philadelphia with his wife Betsey and his nine-year-old daughter Sophonisba to visit his elder daughter Angelica at her home in Baltimore. ..the purpose of the trip was to execute a double portrait of Angelica and her husband, Alexander Robinson, as they awaited the birth of their first child. Seemingly a happy occasion, the visit was spoiled by what Peale called Alexander’s “bad grace” during the sitting. Robinson, a wealthy immigrant from Ireland, is described as haughty, proud, and disdainful of the Peales’ profession; he reportedly dismissed Peale as a “showman.” [1]

Presumably, Angelica asked her father to make the trip...because she feared she might not survive childbirth. Happily, she did survive and gave birth to Alexander, Jr., while her father was still there to welcome his new grandson. Life for Angelica would not always be so fortunate, however; although she lived well into her seventies, she outlived six of her eight children. A later painting, Mother Caressing her Convalescent Daughter, 1818, reveals the toll that age and grief had taken.

In Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Robinson, however, she radiates youth and health. Her long hair, adorned by luminescent pearls, tumbles down her back. Her skin glows, her cheeks just slightly pink. She is dressed in a pale silvery gown, with a soft lace collar draped elegantly around her neck. Her belly swells slightly, hinting at her pregnancy. Alexander, in contrast, is dressed in a stiff and sober black jacket over a high-necked white shirt and cravat. His florid complexion is in stark contrast to his wife’s alabaster skin. His stiff, wooden bearing is perhaps a reflection of Peale’s irritation at his son-in-law’s arrogant manner.

Peale produced this painting during a period of cultural shift in attitudes towards marriage. In general, society was moving from a more patriarchal marriage model, in which a wife deferred to the authority of her husband, to a companionate marriage model of equal partners. His acquaintance, Pennsylvania native Benjamin Franklin, demonstrated this change in his essay Reflections on Courtship and Marriage, in which he emphasized the nature of “matrimony as a voluntary and mutual contract.” This shift had several effects on painting in general. First, the pendant portrait, in which a wife and husband are painted in two separate works, allowing the artist to demonstrate clearly through attributes and settings their separate and appropriate spheres, was becoming less and less common. Replacing it was the double portrait, in which a wife and husband were united in one space. Their physical closeness represented their emotional intimacy. [2]

Several elements of Peale’s double portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Robinson reflect this shift. First, they are seated close together, on the same plane, with their heads at the same level. Peale shows Alexander’s head inclined slightly toward his wife, a gesture that demonstrates his solicitous concern for her wellbeing. He also highlights their tenderly clasped hands by positioning them in front of Alexander’s black coat.

Within the unified space, however, Peale subtly divides the composition into feminine and masculine spheres, a device both he and other portraitists used for double portraits. The artist calls attention to Angelica’s affinity with nature, seen as a more feminine environment. Her blue-green cloak links her to the landscape and darkening sky in the distance, while her soft curls blend into the fuzzy trees behind her. Alexander, in contrast, is placed before a pillar and billowing drapery, artistic conventions that both ennoble him and connect him to culture, which was considered the domain of men.

The painting thus reflects many of the recent shifts in portraiture—a change from pendant to double, with a new emphasis on emotional closeness while still maintaining a suggestion of separate spheres. In one regard, however, this is a singularly distinct painting: Angelica looks directly at the viewer. In double portraits of married couples in the eighteenth century, it is almost always the man who meets the viewer’s gaze, indicating masculine assertiveness and directness. In Peale’s own work, the preponderance of the double portraits show either the husband meeting our gaze or both husband and wife gazing off into the distance. Here, however, Alexander gazes in his wife’s direction, while Angelica steadily regards the viewer. Peale’s feelings toward the young couple are apparent: his admiration for his talented and lovely daughter and his annoyance with his pompous son-in-law.

Peale produced two versions of the portrait; the one belonging to Reynolda House is the second, and a comparison of the two reveals that the artist made numerous improvements over the first version. In addition to certain refinements of dress and background, the second version of the painting boasts faces that are more delicately and skillfully painted. [3]

Charles Willson Peale was a complicated figure—at once a product of the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on rationality and self-improvement, and a deeply flawed individual, who himself acknowledged his “colorick [choleric] disposition” and could allow his personal feelings about his sitters to color his depictions of them. [4] In the double portrait of his daughter Angelica and her husband Alexander Robinson, we see evidence both of the artist’s own feelings and of the rapidly shifting culture in which the work was produced.

Notes:
[1] Charles Coleman Sellers, Charles Willson Peale (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1969), 273; Peale, quoted in Charles C. Eldredge, Barbara Babcock Millhouse, and Robert G. Workman, American Originals: Selections from Reynolda House, Museum of American Art (New York: Abbeville Press, 1990), 28, and David C. Ward, Charles Willson Peale: Art and Selfhood in the Early Republic (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 129.
[2] Benjamin Franklin, quoted in Kate Redford, The Art of Domestic Life: Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2006), 75. For examples of two pendant portraits painted by Peale, see the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Mifflin, 1777–80, in Lillian B. Miller, ed., The Peale Family: Creation of a Legacy, 1770–1870 (Exhibition catalogue. New York: Abbeville Press in association with the Trust for Museum Exhibitions and the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1996), 126.
[3] For an image of the first version, see Sellers, Charles Willson Peale, 273.
[4] Ward, Charles Willson Peale, xii.

See:
Bolton, T. "Charles Wilson Peale, an Account of His Life" The Art Quarterly. Supplement to II (1939): 435.
Lassiter, Barbara B. Reynolda House American Paintings.Winston-Salem, NC: Reynolda House, Inc., 1971: 12, illus. 13.
Millhouse, Barbara B. and Robert Workman. American Originals. New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1990: 28-9.
Schiller, Joyce K. Reading Portraits Through Buttons And Bows. Winston-Salem, NC: Reynolda House Museum of American Art, 2001: 12-3.
Sellers, C.C. Charles Wilson Peale, Later Life: 1790-1827.(1947): II, illus. opp. 73.
Sellers, C.C. Portraits And Miniatures By Charles Wilson Peale. (1952): 333, illus. 183.

Bibliography:
Bellion, Wendy. “‘Extend the Sphere’: Charles Willson Peale’s Panorama of Annapolis.” Art Bulletin 84, no. 3 (September. 2004): 529–549.
Bellion, Wendy. “Illusion and Allusion: Charles Willson Peale’s Staircase Group at the Columbianum Exhibition.” American Art 17, no. 2 (Summer 2003): 18¬–39.
Briggs, Berta N. Charles Willson Peale: Artist and Patriot. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1952.
Eldredge, Charles C., Barbara Babcock Millhouse, and Robert G. Workman. American Originals: Selections from Reynolda House, Museum of American Art. New York: Abbeville Press, 1990.
Friedrich, Otto. “The Peales: America’s First Family of Art.” National Geographic 178, no. 6 (December 1990): 98–121.
Honan, William H. “Suspicions of Hatred in Family of Artists Stir Academic Debate.” New York Times, July 5, 1993: C15–16.
Lovell, Margaretta M. “Reading Eighteenth-Century American Family Portraits: Social Images and Self-Images.” Winterthur Portfolio 22, no. 4 (Winter 1987): 243–264.
Miller, Lillian B. “Charles Willson Peale as History Painter: The Exhumation of the Mastodon”. The American Art Journal (Winter 1981): 47–68.
Miller, Lillian B. “The Peale Family: A Lively Mixture of Art and Science.” Smithsonian Magazine. (1979): 66–77.
Miller, Lillian B., ed. The Peale Family: Creation of a Legacy, 1770–1870. Exhibition catalogue. New York: Abbeville Press in association with the Trust for Museum Exhibitions and the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1996.
Miller, Lillian B., et al., eds. The Selected papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family 5 vols. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983–2000.
Miller, Lillian B., and David C. Ward, eds. New Perspectives on Charles Willson Peale. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991.
Retford, Kate. The Art of Domestic Life: Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England. New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2006.
Richardson, Edward P., Lillian B. Miller, and Brooke Hindle. Charles Willson Peale and His World. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1982.
Sellers, Charles Coleman. Charles Willson Peale. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1969.
Sellers, Charles Coleman. Mr. Peale’s Museum: Charles Willson Peale and the First Popular Museum of Natural Science and Art. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1980.
Sellers, Charles Coleman. Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale. New York: Scribner’s, 1952.
Steinberg, David. “Educating for Distinction? Art, Hierarchy, and Charles Willson Peale’s Staircase Group.” In Johnston, Patricia, ed., Seeing High and Low: Representing Social Conflict in American Visual Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
Ward, David C. “An Artist’s Self-Fashioning: The Forging of Charles Willson Peale.” Word and Image 15 (July–August 1999).
Ward, David C. “Celebration of Self: The Portraiture of Charles Willson Peale and Rembrandt Peale, 1823-27.” American Art 7 (Winter 1993): 9–27.
Ward, David C. Charles Willson Peale: Art and Selfhood in the Early Republic. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Thomas Jefferson, Art Collector, seemed to collect little art about Women

John Trumbull (American painter, 1756-1843) Thomas Jefferson 1788

Thomas Jefferson was acutely conscious of the importance of historical icons in the formation of a national identity, like Indian artifacts and mastodon bones.  In 1803, a list of the artworks at Monticello showed 126 items, including "17 in the entrance hall, 49 in the parlor, 10 in the dining room, and 36 in the tearoom (most of the works in this small room were miniatures)." Jefferson was also known to have a "large portfolio of unframed prints and drawings."

When he was making plans for building the first Monticello, he included in his "Construction Notebook" a "wish list" of 19 works of sculpture and painting.  His primary interest was sculpture, for the same classical education that turned him to Rome for architectural inspiration directed him to statuary, the representational art form most directly linked to classical antiquity. Here, at the head of his list were the definitely feminine Medici Venus and also the Apollo Belvedere. 
Copies of the Medici Venus were popular with "learned" gentlemen in the 17C & 18C.  The Venus de' Medici or Medici Venus is a Hellenistic marble sculpture depicting the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite.  The goddess is depicted in a fugitive, momentary pose, as if surprised in the act of emerging from the sea, to which the dolphin at her feet alludes.  Visitors to Rome like John Evelyn   (1620-1706, English writer, gardener & diarist) found it "a miracle of art."  
One of  John Zoffany's (1733-1810) most complicated conversation pieces is his 1772 painting The Tribuna of the Uffizi (now in the Royal Collection), showing the Venus (right) on show in the Tribuna, surrounded by English and Italian "art connoisseurs."

Copies of the works at the top of Jefferson's wish list "were most likely intended for two niches in the parlor of the original house." Jefferson never acquired them, but during a lifetime of collecting, he managed to amass a sizeable number of sculptural busts, and enough paintings, prints, and maps to fill the available wall space of the public rooms of Monticello.

Jefferson acquired much of his collection randomly, buying some items in Paris at auction, commissioning copies of others, and receiving some as presentation copies. The one artist whose work he owned was Jean-Antoine Houdon, whom he became acquainted with in Paris.  He brought to Monticello a total of 7 busts by Houdon, mostly of American patriots, including the famous Houdon likeness of Jefferson himself.  Jefferson’s painting collection included a number of copies of old masters, including Raphael, Leonardo, and Rubens. Copies of famous paintings, particularly if done by a competent hand, were considered in good taste in the 18C.

In addition, the walls of Monticello were decorated with geographical and historical scenes of America, as well as portraits of its male luminaries. He acquired likenesses of such gentlemen explorers of the Americas as Columbus, Cortez, Magellan, and Vespucci, and of the colonizer of Virginia, Sir Walter Raleigh. To these were added a gallery of paintings or prints of American male patriots, including Washington, Adams, Franklin, Lafayette, and Paine. He displayed in the lower tier of works hung in the parlor a set of ten medals of officers who had distinguished themselves during the Revolution.

There were also portraits of his private European male heroes, "the three greatest men the world had ever produced," Bacon, Newton, and Locke, for their contributions to the intellectual foundations of the nation.  Jefferson encouraged John Trumbull to paint scenes of the Revolutionary War, and acquired a print of the most famous of these, "The Declaration of Independence." It was added to a wide collection of Americana, including scenes of Harper's Ferry, Niagara Falls, the Natural Bridge, New Orleans, Mount Vernon, and an elevation of Monticello by Robert Mills.

Jefferson's Monticello collection of art works, natural history specimens, and American Indian artifacts, many from the Lewis and Clark expedition, has become emblematic of his remarkable intellect and his dedication to the gentlemen of country that he helped found.

(excerpts from McLaughlin, Jack. Jefferson and Monticello: The biography of a builder. New York : H. Holt, 1988, p.360-3)

For further information about the art collection of Thomas Jefferson, see:
Adams, William Howard. Jefferson and the arts: An extended view. Washington : National Gallery of Art, 1976.
Berman, Eleanor Davidson. Jefferson among the arts; An essay in early American esthetics. New York, Philosophical Library [1947].
McLaughlin, Jack. Jefferson and Monticello: The biography of a builder. New York : H. Holt, c1988.
Stein, Susan R. The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. New York : H.N. Abrams, in association with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, Inc., 1993.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women

1749-1752 John Wollaston. 1733-1767 Mary Walton Morris. National Gallery of Art

Sunday, February 10, 2019

18C Women in Business - Susanna Haswell Rowson (1762-1824) Author, Actress, & Educator

Susanna Haswell Rowson (1762-1824)This 1790s portrait is among the Susanna Rowson Papers, 1770-1879, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.

Susanna Haswell Rowson (1762-1824) was a British-American novelist, poet, playwright, religious writer, stage actress, and educator. Rowson was the author of the 1791 novel Charlotte Temple, the most popular best-seller in American literature, until Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1852.

Susanna Haswell was born in Portsmouth, England, the only child of William Haswell, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, by his 1st wife, Susanna Musgrave, daughter of a commissioner of customs. Other members of the Haswell family included 2 of Susanna’s 3 half brothers-Robert Haswell, an American naval officer & writer, & John Montresor Haswell, cited by congress for his bravery in the war with Tripoli, & her cousin Anthony Haswell, who came to Boston about 1770 & became a famous editor & balladeer in early Vermont.

Since her mother had died in giving her birth, Susanna’s early rearing was entrusted to relatives. About 4 years after her birth, her father was assigned to duty in the revenue service in Massachusetts. There he married Rachel Woodward of George’s Island in Boston harbor & settled in nearby Nantasket. In 1768, Haswell returned to England for his daughter. In her partly autobiographical novel, Rebecca, of Fille de Chambre (1792), Susanna recounted the hazards of her voyage to America, ending in shipwreck on an island in Boston harbor & then the contrasting years of peaceful & simple pleasures of life at Nantasket.

The Haswell’s circulated easily in the literate & stable aristocracy of the Boston area & enjoyed the best of life in the New World. Susanna’s precocious knowledge of the classics at the age of 12 is said to have impelled their eminent summer neighbor James Otis, to call her “my little scholar.” But the quiet harmony of their life was soon shattered by the Revolution. Applying for permission to leave American in the fall of 1775, Haswell (a member of the hated revenue service) was denied his request. His property was confiscated, & he & his family were interned as loyalists. After being held at Hingham for 2 years, they were moved in the fall of 1777 to Abington. Finally, in the spring of 1778, Haswell was permitted, on giving his parole to Gen. William Heath, to take his family to Halifax, Nova Scotia, & then to London, where they lived in poverty because of a several years’ delay in the granting of Haswell government pension.

Susanna began job-hunting at once & soon became governess to the children of the Duchess of Devonshire. In this role she not only toured Europe but also saw something of the private lives of the aristocracy, which she later used as material for her fiction. In 1786, she published her 1st novel, Victoria, with a dedication to the Duchess. She then retired from her job to marry, in 1787, William Rowson, a hardware merchant & a trumpeter in the Royal Horse Guards. A handsome, sociable man, too fond of liquor, too trusting in business enterprises, &father of an illegitimate child, Rowson was not an ideal husband. There can be little doubt that certain of the trials of female patience recounted in Mrs. Rowson’s major novel, Charlotte Temple (1791), had some foundation in her own life.

With the failure of Rowson’s hardware business in 1792, both husband & wife took to the stage, playing in Edinburgh in 1792-93. There they were booked by Thomas Wignell to act in his company in the new Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.She & her husband accepted Wignell’s offer sailing to Philadelphia aboard the George Barclay later that summer. She remained with Wignell’s company until the fall of 1796, when she left to join the Federal Street Theatre in Boston, where she spent one season before retiring from the stage to embark on a teaching career.
The Old Chestnut Street Theatre, Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The New Theatre on Chestnut Street, opened in 1794, was where Susanna Rowson performed during her time in Philadelphia between 1794-1796. She wrote several of the plays she acted in, including Slaves in Algiers; or, a Struggle for Freedom in 1794.

After performing in Annapolis, Philadelphia, & Baltimore, in 1796, the Rowsons settled in Boston to play at the Federal Street Theatre. Although not a gifted actress, Mrs. Rowson had a warm personality & versatile talents; she could dance, sing, play the harpsichord & guitar, write plays, & compose both lyrics & librettos.

During her 5-year career in the theatre she acted 129 different parts in 126 different productions, a number of them written by herself, & some with the collaboration of musicians such as Alexander Reinagle of Philadelphia. The most successful of her theatrical works was the operetta Slaves in Algiers, or a Struggle for Freedom (1794), in which a group of American women, captured by North African pirates & held for ransom, eventually make their escape. Other of her plays were The Volunteers (1795), a musical farce based on the Whiskey Rebellion; the comedic melodrama The Female Patriot; or, Nature’s Rights (1795); The American Tar, or the Press Gang Defeated (1796): & Americans in England, or Lessons for Daughters, a 3-act comedy, 1st presented in 1797, in which she made her last appearance.

In the spring of that year, now in her mid-30s, Mrs. Rowson retired from the stage opening a Young Ladies Academy in Boston. She moved it in 1800 to Medford, in 1803 to Newton, & in 1811 back to Boston, where until her retirement in 1822 she occupied quarters on Hollis Street. One of the 1st schools established in the United States to offer girls some education above the elementary level, the academy was highly successful. Mrs. Rowson wrote some of her own textbooks, including An Abridgement of Universal Geography, together with Sketches of History (1805?), A Spelling Dictionary (1807), & Biblical dialogues between a Father & His Family (1822). The school was also unusual in offering its young women formal instruction in public speaking & in providing well-qualified music teachers trained in Europe.

In other contributions to Boston’s cultural life, William Rowson played a memorable trumpet in the Handel & Hayden Society’s performances of the Messiah, while Mrs. Rowson, who counted among her friends such as leading musicians as the Graupners & Von Hagens, helped organize concerts. When the Boston Weekly Magazine was begun in 1802. Mrs. Rowson became a contributor, as she was to the Monthly Anthology & Joseph T. Buckingham’s New England Galaxy. She had meanwhile published other ventures in the field of the novel, among them Trials of the Human Heart (1795), a rather loosely organized 4-volume work to which both Benjamin Franklin & Martha Washington were subscribers, Reuben & Rachel (1798), a rambling historical novel dealing with the heirs of Columbus. Sarah, the Exemplary Wife, a series of fictionalized moral tracts first published in her Boston Weekly Magazine, appeared in 1813.
Illustration from Charlotte Temple.

Varied as were Mrs. Rowson’s activities, her main importance is as the author of one book - Charlotte Temple (London 1791; Philadelphia, 1794), the 1st American best seller, which has seen over 200 editions to date. (She also wrote a sequel, Charlotte’s Daughter; or, The Three Orphans, published posthumously in Boston in 1828.) A sentimental novel patterned on the standard seduction story, Charlotte Temple tells of a sheltered English schoolgirl possessed of more tenderness than prudence who is seduced, carried off to New York, & abandoned by a British army officer whose villainy is punished, after Charlotte’s death, by the torments of remorse. The subtitle of the book, “A Tale of Truth,” may well be correct, for some evidence exists that the original of the seducer, Montraville, was Mrs. Rowson’s cousin, Col. John Montresor. Like many best sellers, Charlotte Temple is more significant for the historian of popular taste than for the literary critic. Although hinting at the power of the sexual impulse & detailing the penalties meted out to women for accepting illicit love under the “double standard” may well have been a useful part of the education of a young girl.

Although Mrs. Rowson had no children, her household was large, for it included her husband’s younger sister, Charlotte; his illegitimate son William; her own niece, Susan Johnston; & her adopted daughter, Fanny Mills. To these last 2 she turned over her school in 1822, though she apparently still maintained much of the alertness & vivacity that had marked all her life. Mrs. Rowson regularly attended the preaching of the Rev. John S. Gardiner at Trinity Church, & found scope for expressing her humanitarian convictions by serving for some years as president of the Boston Fatherless & Widows’ Society. She died at her home in Boston & was buried in the family vault of her friend Gottlieb Graupner in St. Matthew’s Church, South Boston. When this church was demolished in 1866, her remains were transferred to Mount hope Cemetery in Dorchester.

Reared in a loyalist family, Mrs. Rowson became an ardent, articulate American patriot. An active proponent of the theatrical & musical arts in the early years of the United States, a broad-minded & effective teacher, she was also one of the 1st to express, through her writings, a subtle protest against the dependent status of women in her day.

See: Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Eds. Edward James, Janet James, Paul Boyer. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Brandt, Ellen B. Susanna Haswell Rowson, America’s First Best-Selling Novelist. Chicago: Serbra Press, 1975.

Durang, Charles. “Philadelphia Stage from 1749 to 1821.” Philadelphia Sunday Dispatch, 1854-1856. The Sept. 10, 1854 edition contains a concise history of the New Theatre.

Nason, Elias. A Memoir of Mrs. Susanna Rowson, with Elegant and Illustrative Extracts From her Writings in Prose and Poetry. Albany: Munsell, 1870.

Parker, Patricia. Susanna Rowson. Boston: Twayne, 1986.

Pollock, Thomas. The Philadelphia Theatre in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968.

Richards, Jeffrey H. “Susanna and the Stage; or, Rowson Family Theatre.” Studies in American Fiction 38.1-2 (Spring and Fall 2011): 1-31.

Rust, Marion. Prodigal Daughters: Susanna Rowson’s Early American Women. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

Weil, Dorothy. In Defense of Women: Susanna Rowson (1762-1824). University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1749-52 John Wollaston. 1733-1767 Portrait of a Woman. Art Institute of Chicago

Friday, February 8, 2019

18C Women in Business - Women's Economic Roles in Early America

A Woman Shopkeeper of the 1790s, by an Unknown Artist.

Everything indicates that, should need arise, there was nothing in the social or economic code of the times to prevent a woman's supporting herself and her family in whatever way she best could. ... As far as general business went, women were to be found buying and selling, suing and being sued, acting as administrators and executors, and having power of attorney, with what appears to be the utmost freedom.

Recent historians have little changed Elisabeth Anthony Dexter's seven decade old conclusions. Women clearly played an important role in the colonial economy. Besides farmers and housewives, colonial women were innkeepers, "she-merchants," artificers, health care providers, teachers, landed proprietors, writers, and printers. Women were also shipbuilders, tailors, shoemakers, bakers, brewers, painters, gilders, and wallpaper hangers, among other occupations.

Colonial women most often made a living in occupations that stressed their traditional female roles as mothers and housekeepers. But the monetization of even the most feminine of occupations transformed "women's work" into a component of the gendered game of wealth accumulation. Women inn and tavernkeepers had to take money and promissory notes from their customers in order to pay their suppliers, for example. The operation of a public house necessitated the hosting of public functions, especially legal and economic ones. Vendues, for instance, were commonly held at taverns, even those owned by women. Seamstresses often developed into milliners and mantuamakers -- fancy seamstresses who resold a stock of value-added goods. Widows and single women could not help but gain a familiarity with finances. In fact, William Dawson ran "an evening school for young ladies" in Philadelphia in 1755 that included instruction in "arithmetick," and "accounts, by way of single entry, in a plain methodical manner."

According to Dexter, "women shopkeepers abounded in colonial days, not only in New York, but throughout the northern colonies. They excited little comment, and received scant mention in the earlier sources." Because she-merchants often took over the businesses of deceased husbands, colonial women sold a wide variety of goods from windows to clothes to wines to groceries. A few women were dry goods importers, the top of the colonial and early national merchants' ladder. One of these was Mary Alexander, the mother of Lord Stirling of Revolutionary War fame. She was a powerful New York City merchant of Dutch extraction. From the 1720s to the 1760s, Alexander lived the life of a wealthy merchant. Worth some £100,000, Alexander dealt in bills of exchange, especially with Barclay and Sons, her bankers in England.

Other colonial women traders were furniture dealers, hardware traders, booksellers, druggists, and tobacconists. Some she-merchants specialized in certain goods. Clothing and seeds were favorite areas of concentration. Women came to dominate certain trades in some areas. For example, six of Boston's eight major seed retailers in 1774 were women.

Although the words "for cash," or "for cash only," frequently appeared in the advertisements of colonial she-merchants, it is clear many women merchants allowed credit. Women shopkeepers were able to extend credit, it appears, because they were able to get credit directly from Britain. But, like their male counterparts, their credit was not unlimited, and they often had to dun debtors for payment. Women's dunnings were firm. One such dunning bluntly stated: "if not convenient to pay the money, to come and bring surety and change bonds into negotiable notes of hand ... and those neglecting will be sued in the December Court." This she-merchant needed cash, and was willing to resort to the private securities market, or the courts, to get it. Women shopkeepers also made their own promissory notes or assigned their debtors' notes to their creditors for collection.

There remains some disagreement about the number of colonial women involved in trade. Elisabeth Dexter estimated about one out of every ten colonial merchants was female. Jean Jordan believed only 2% of colonial New York merchants were women. While admitting "the percentage of eighteenth-century colonial shopkeepers who were women is not clear," Patricia Cleary, who relied on tax records as well as advertisements, thought as many as one in every three shopkeepers were women. While Jordan found only 106 women traders in New York between 1660 and 1775, Cleary found 109 in the 1760s alone.

Historiographical disputes grow more fundamental with the closing of the American Revolution. Several historians who believe the Revolution should have extended women's political rights have tried to explain why women were politically proscribed in the early national era. Although a reduction of the number of women in business, or a large increase in women's political involvement, would have been counter to colonial trends, these studies often also imply women's economic activities were similarly proscribed. That was simply not the case. Whether or not the reaction to women in politics during the early national period was "Thermidorean," or "a deeply gendered one," women continued to play an important role in the early national economy. Most men, in fact, did not find "it impossible to imagine adult women as anything other than wives."

Jean Jordan wrote, with some degree of truth, that after the Revolution, "the colonial type of women merchants -- importer, exporters, wholesalers -- were gone." However, as will be shown below, it is clear that many women traders, though generally of a lesser sort, continued to prosper well after the Revolution. An analysis of Longworth's Directory for 1803 suggests that about 7% of New York City's "traders" were women. Of the Directory's approximately 12,250 names, 1,468 were sampled by manually assigning persons with last names beginning with an 'A' or a 'B' into one of six categories: male trader, male mechanic/laborer, male professional, unidentified females and widows, female trader, or female laborer. Male traders included merchants, grocers, shipmasters, shipchandlers, milliners, tavern or innkeepers, and any man owning a "store" or "shop." Such men composed 30% of the total sample. Male mechanic/laborers included carpenters, butchers, bakers, pilots, cartmen, oystermen, laborers, painters, masons, coopers, shipwrights, tailors, smiths, and others who probably worked primarily with their hands. Such men composed 50% of the total sample. Male professionals included doctors, lawyers, teachers, measurers, corporate officers, architects, constables, and a wide assortment of government officials. Such men composed 8.5% of the total sample. Widows or occupationally unidentified women composed 7.5% of the total sample and 71% of listed women. Female merchants included merchants, milliners and mantuamakers, tavern or innkeepers, and a few teachers and nurses. There were so few of these last groups that their inclusion in the traders group is not statistically significant. These traders (and the few "professionals") composed 2% of the total sample, 21% of the women's sample, and 7% of the "traders" sample. Female laborers included seamstresses and washers. They composed less than 1% of the total sample and only 8% of the female sample. Undoubtedly Longworth's compiler missed many of this last class, or listed them without occupation.

Frances Manges thought the increased complexity of the economy explained "the reason women were accepted in business more readily before the Industrial Revolution than after it." She thought "that the [colonial] economy was so simple that the shop, tavern, or craft could be conducted from, or not far from, the sanctuary of the home." In other words, the movement of economic activity from the home presumably made women's work less socially acceptable. Mary Beth Norton laid the blame on "the republican definition of womanhood." "Woman's domestic and maternal role came to be seen as so important," Norton argued, "that it was believed women sacrificed their femininity if they attempted to be more (or other) than wives and mothers." Many historians writing in this vein have focused largely on upper class women. Recently, Jeanne Boydston has noted this, and questioned why labor, economic, and even women's historians ignore early nineteenth-century lower-class women. Indeed, most women traders, as Mary Roberts Parramore has shown, were of "the laboring class." Her careful study shows that the number of women traders in South Carolina actually boomed after the Revolution.

Parramore's study makes it clear historians have laid too much stress on women in the colonial economy and women in early national politics, and not enough on women in the early national economy. Linda Kerber's survey of early feme sole merchants, for example, was more concerned with women's political rights than with their actual economic roles. Kerber concluded "the feme sole clearly had property rights that she might vigorously protect, [but] she was not permitted to exercise the political rights that theoretically accompanied them." While this conclusion is important, it ignored the feme sole's economic power, and hence her indirect political power. Might not a successful feme sole have influenced her husband's vote? Though precluded from voting, women took an interest in politics. Women could also occasionally voice their political opinions in print. In early 1797, Evah Van Derpsigle, a "Female Reader," and apparently in business, wrote the editor of the New York Diary to express her opinion that President Adams should cancel all treaties, call in all ambassadors, "sell the Mint, stop building the Federal City, raise no Salaries of officers, repeal the Sinking Fund," and buy [redeem] as many securities at the market price as possible and tax the rest. (New York Register of the Times: A Gazette for the Country, 27 January 1797.)

Lisa Wilson Waciega, "A 'Man of Business': The Widow of Means in Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1750-1850," William and Mary Quarterly, (1987)

Lisa Wilson, Life After Death: Widows in Pennsylvania, 1750-1850 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992).

Elisabeth Anthony Dexter, Colonial Women of Affairs: A Study of Women in Business and the Professions in America Before 1776 (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1924)

Frances Manges, "Women Shopkeepers, Tavernkeepers, and Artisans in Colonial Philadelphia," (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1958)

Miriam Moss, Women and Business (UK: Wayland Publishers Ltd., 1990)

Jean Jordan, "Women Merchants in Colonial New York," New York History, (1977)

Mary Roberts Parramore, "'For Her Sole and Separate Use': Feme Sole Trader Status in Early South Carolina." (M.A. thesis, University of South Carolina, 1991)

Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980)

Pennsylvania Gazette, 25 March 1755.

Patricia Cleary, "'She Merchants' of Colonial America: Women and Commerce on the Eve of the Revolution," (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1989)

Patricia Cleary, "'She Will Be in the Shop': Women's Sphere of Trade in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia and New York," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, (July 1995),

J.H. Plumb, "Britain & America: The Cultural Heritage," in The English Heritage, eds. Frederic Youngs Jr. et al, 1st ed. (St. Louis: Forum Press, 1978)

Linda Kerber, "The Paradox of Women's Citizenship in the Early Republic: The Case of Martin vs. Massachusetts, 1805," American Historical Review, (April 1992)

Herman Kroos and Charles Gilbert, American Business History (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972)

Linda Grant De Pauw and Conover Hunt, Remember the Ladies: Women in America, 1750-1815 (New York: Viking Press, 1976)

Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1980)

James A. Henretta, The Origins of American Capitalism: Collected Essays (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991), 237.