Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer: William Hooper
Image: William Hooper
William Hooper was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1742. His early education, at the age of seven, was seven years at the Boston Latin School. When he completed these studies, he entered the sophomore class of Harvard College in 1757, at age 16, graduating in 1760 with a B.A. degree and in 1763 with a M.A. degree. Although William Hooper’s parents wanted him to enter the clergy, but much to the chagrin of his father rejected the ministry as a profession.
The next year, he further alienated his Loyalist father and isolated himself from his family by studying law under James Otis, a brilliant but radical Boston lawyer. After passing the bar exam, he decided to leave home, because Boston already had too many attorneys.
Wife of President George Washington
Image: Martha Washington
Michael Deas, Artist
Although the title was not coined until after her death, Martha Washington was the first of the First Ladies of the United States. During her lifetime, she was known as Lady Washington. When George Washington took his oath of office in New York City on April 30, 1789, and assumed the new duties of President of the United States, his wife brought to their position a tact and discretion developed over 58 years of life in Tidewater Virginia society. Martha was a rather small, pleasant-looking woman, practical with good common sense.
The oldest daughter of John and Frances Dandridge, Martha was born June 2, 1731, at her parents’ Chestnut Grove Plantation near Williamsburg, Virginia. As was typical of the time, she was educated at home by her mother and a tutor, and likely learned music, sewing, household management, and how to keep a family contented. Her later skills at plantation management, crop sales, homeopathic medicine, animal husbandry suggests a wider education than previously thought.
Wife of Founding Father James Otis, Jr.
Image: James Otis, Jr.
Ruth Cunningham, the shy but beautiful daughter of a wealthy Boston merchant, married James Otis, Jr. in 1755. The marriage enhanced Otis’ social standing and improved his financial situation. But his new bride did not share his political and social idealism. They had two daughters.
James Otis Jr. was Boston’s most brilliant young lawyer. James had attended Harvard College, graduating in 1743, but continued his education in law under Jeremiah Gridley, a member of the General Court of Massachusetts. After Otis was admitted to the bar, he launched his law practice in Plymouth, Massachusetts, but relocated to Boston in 1750. His younger sister Mercy Otis Warren and his brother Joseph Otis also rose to prominence.
Dutch Woman of New York
Wife of General Philip Schuyler
Catharine Van Rensselaer was born in 1734, the only daughter of John Van Rensselaer, who was called Patroon (landholder) of Greenbush, and was noted for his hospitality, and for his kindness toward the tenants of his vast estates. Catherine was the great-great-granddaughter of Killian Van Rensselaer, the original founder of the Dutch colony, named Rensselaerswyck, in the Albany region of eastern New York.
Philip Schuyler was born in Albany on November 11, 1733, into an old aristocratic Dutch family, one of the colony’s largest landholders. He received an excellent education. After commanding a company of New York militia in the French and Indian War, he managed the large estate left him by his father in the Mohawk and Hudson River valleys.
Wife of Patrick Henry
Image: Patrick Henry: American Patriot
Though he was not present for the signing of the Constitution, Patrick Henry was pivotal in galvanizing the Virginia colonists to action during the American Revolution. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he was one of the most influential advocates of the American Revolution, especially in his denunciations of corruption in government officials and his defense of historic rights.
On May 29, 1736, Patrick Henry was born at Studley, in Hanover County, Virginia, the second son of John Henry and his wife, Sarah Winston Henry, and one of eleven children. Two children died at young ages, leaving two sons and seven daughters in the family.
Wife of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin
Deborah Read Franklin played an important role in the founding of the United States simply by taking on the management of her family businesses. By so doing, she allowed her husband, founding father Benjamin Franklin, the opportunity to actively pursue his role in state and national politics in the decades before and after the American Revolution.
Deborah Read was born about 1707 to John Read, a British carpenter, and his wife Sarah White Read. Whether Deborah was born while her parents still lived in England, or after they moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is uncertain. The second of seven children, Read received little formal education. Almost nothing else is known about her childhood.
Wife of Founding Father Peyton Randolph
Peyton Randolph and Elizabeth Harrison were married on March 8, 1746; they were among Williamsburg, Virginia’s leading citizens in the quarter century before the American Revolution. A second-generation Virginian, Peyton Randolph studied law in London and became Attorney General of Virginia in 1744. Though they had no children of their own, the Randolphs undoubtedly raised several of Elizabeth’s younger siblings after her parents’ early deaths.
The date of Elizabeth Harrison’s birth is unknown. Her parents – Benjamin and Anne Carter Harrison – were both deceased by 1745, leaving nine children, the youngest only three years old. When Elizabeth married Peyton Randolph in 1746, some of the children went to live with their only other married sister, while the rest almost certainly moved to Williamsburg to live with Elizabeth and her new husband. There, all the boys eventually attended the College of William and Mary just down the street from the Randolphs house. Peyton and Elizabeth had no children of their own.