Cornelia Bradford

Female Colonial Printer

Cornelia Smith Bradford took over the Philadelphia print center of Andrew Bradford at his death in 1742. She took on a partner, and continued the business through the partnership of “Isaiah Warner & Cornelia Bradford” until October, 1744. Then Cornelia resumed the operation until at least 1751.

Andrew Bradford was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Bradford and Elizabeth Soules. His father probably came to America from Leicestershire, England, with William Penn and his company in 1682. William Bradford then moved his family to New York in 1693, and was there appointed Royal Printer. He established the New York Gazette in 1725, which was believed to be the first newspaper printed in the colonies.

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Hannah Penn

wife of William Penn

Wife of Pennsylvania Founder William Penn

On First Day (Sunday to non-Quakers), December 10, 1699, after eight difficult weeks at sea, Hannah Penn arrived in Philadelphia on board the Canterbury with her husband. While William Penn’s trusted secretary, James Logan, instructed dockworkers and servants to gather up crates of their belongings, Penn escorted Hannah, as she carefully made her way down the gangplank into his bustling “green country town.”

Hannah was pregnant and due to give birth to their first child in about a month. Twenty-six years old when she arrived in Philadelphia, Hannah was twenty-four years younger than her famous husband. Penn’s first wife, Gulielma Maria Springett, had died on February 24, 1694, leaving two surviving children.

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Abigail Franks

Colonial Jewish Matriarch

Abigail Levy Franks

Bilhah Abigail Levy was born in New York in 1696, the eldest of five children, one year after her parents, Moses and Rachel Levy, arrived there from London. Moses Levy became a successful New York merchant. A few years later, Abigail’s mother died, leaving her eleven-year-old daughter, the only female, to care for her younger brothers until Moses wed again.

Jacob Franks also came from London, where he was a member of a large, thriving Jewish merchant family. Jacob lived as a boarder in the Levy household. Perhaps the tensions that erupted between the children of the first Levy marriage and their new stepmother propelled Abigail to marry Jacob Franks in 1712 at the age of sixteen, which was uncommonly young for colonial Jewish women.

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Rebecca Rawson

Puritan Massachusetts Woman

Rebecca Rawson was born on May 23, 1656, in Boston. A member of a typically large Puritan family, she was the ninth of twelve children, born to her father Edward and his wife, Rachel Perne. Four of Rebecca’s adult siblings moved from Massachusetts to England, while the rest, like Rebecca, remained in Massachusetts.

 Rebecca’s life was influenced not only by the theocratic social system of the colony of Massachusetts, but also by her association in upper class English society in both England and America. Since many, if not most, Puritan women conformed to the expectations of their culture, it is important to examine the societal positions and careers of members of the Rawson family.

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Mary Coffin Starbuck

Quaker Preacher of Nantucket Island

Mary Coffin Starbuck was born February 20, 1645 in Haverhill, Massachusetts, just two years after her parents’ arrival from Devonshire, England. Ten men got together and planned the purchase Nantucket Island, off the Massachusetts shore. Mary’s father, Tristram Coffin was the leader of the group — along with Edward Starbuck, Thomas Macy, and Isaac Coleman – and the purchase took place in 1659. He took his family to the island in 1660, where he was Chief Magistrate in 1671 and Commissioner in 1675.

In 1662, Mary married Nathaniel Starbuck, a prosperous farmer, local official, and partner with her father in purchasing the area from the Indians. The son of Edward and Catherine (Reynolds) Starbuck, Nathaniel was born February 20, 1634 in Dover, New Hampshire. Mary was eighteen when her first child was born – the first white child born on the Island of Nantucket. From this family all of the Starbucks of America are descended.

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Elizabeth Heard

Native American Friend

Elizabeth Hull, daughter of Reverend Joseph Hull, was born in 1626 in England, and married Captain John Heard at York, Maine in 1642. Soon after their marriage, they settled at Dover, New Hampshire. The leader of the colonists at Cochecho (near Dover) was Richard Waldron (Walderne), an Englishman who had emigrated in 1635. In 1642, Waldron owned a large tract of land at the Lower Falls of the Cochecho River where he built a sawmill. That spot became the foundation of the settlement known as Cochecho.

In 1652, Captain John Heard had grants of land “under the Great Hill of Cocheco,” and he and Elizabeth built their house on the brow of the Great Hill.

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Elizabeth Murray

Independent Colonial Woman

Born in Scotland in 1726 and orphaned by 1737, Elizabeth Murray immigrated to the American colonies at age 22 and settled on her own in Boston, Massachusetts, where she ran a successful dry goods shop during the 1750s. Shopkeeping was a typical business for many women of her era – there were very few jobs open to unmarried women who aspired to a middle-class standard of living. She also owned a boardinghouse and a sewing school.

Elizabeth launched her businesses with the help of her brother, James, who sold three slaves to get her started. He enlisted a London mercantile company and a buyer to purchase and supply goods to her. As a retailer and importer, Elizabeth made a living selling the goods colonial Americans wanted and needed.

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Anne Geddy

Colonial Virginia Woman

Image: James Geddy House

Located on the Palace Green across from Bruton Parish Church, the two-story James Geddy House is one of the original buildings in the Historic Area. The low-pitched roof and lack of dormers are unusual features, as are the door and balcony above the front porch. The beautiful home also housed the diverse business ventures of the Geddy family – from a foundry to a watch repair.

Anne Geddy was the wife of James Geddy Sr., who probably arrived in Virginia from Scotland sometime before 1733. Geddy was primarily a gunsmith, but he also worked in wrought iron and cast brass. By 1738, he had located his business on two lots on a site on the northeast corner of Palace Green and Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia. Anne and James had eight children, four boys and four girls.

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Mary Alexander

Colonial New York Woman

Image: Mary Alexander Burial Site
Trinity Churchyard, Manhattan

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

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

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Eliza Lucas Pinckney

Colonial South Carolina Woman

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

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

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