7.16.2016

Christiana Carteaux Bannister

African American Hairdresser Who Saved Slaves



Image: Christiana Carteaux Bannister
Painted by her husband, Edward Mitchell Bannister

Christiana Carteaux Bannister was an African American abolitionist, philanthropist, and businessperson in New England in the mid-19th century. She met her husband, artist Edward Bannister, at her hair salon in Boston; the two were active in the Boston Underground Railroad helping runaway slaves reach the next station.

Early Years
She was born Christiana Babcock circa 1820 in North Kingstown, Rhode Island to African American and Narragansett Indian parents. Her African American grandparents most likely lived and died as slaves. Christiana's parents were probably born after Rhode Island's gradual emancipation act of 1784 was passed, and so gained complete freedom at the age of twenty-one. Little is known of her childhood.

6.08.2016

First Women in Business

Business Women in the Early United States

Women have always struggled with the challenges presented by socially-determined gender roles, which have both created opportunities for women’s advancement and limited their growth as professionals.

Image: Eliza Lucas Pinckney

Eliza Lucas Pinckney
Business: Agriculture
Eliza Lucas (1722-1793) was born in Antigua, West Indies and grew up at one of her family's sugarcane plantations on the island. Her parents, Lt. Colonel George Lucas and his wife Ann sent all their children to London to be educated. Eliza studied French and music, but her favorite subject was botany.

11.04.2015

Mary Young Pickersgill

Woman Who Stitched the Star Spangled Banner

woman who made the Star-Spangled Banner
Mary Young Pickersgill stitched the Star-Spangled Banner, the large flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the naval portion of the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. When he saw the flag still flying above the embattled fort the next morning, the sight inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that would become the national anthem of the United States of America.

Early Years
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania February 12, 1776, Mary Young was the youngest of six children born to William Young and Rebecca Flower Young. Mary's father died when she was two years old. To support her family, Rebecca opened a flag shop in Philadelphia. Beginning in 1875, she made the Grand Union Flag, also called the Continental Colors, for the Continental Army. The Grand Union Flag preceded the Betsy Ross flag and is considered the first American flag. Young later moved her family to Baltimore, Maryland, where she taught Mary the craft of flag making from a very young age.

7.09.2015

Margaret Borland

Texas Rancher and Pioneer Female Trail Driver

In the mid-1800s, cattle ranching was becoming big business in Texas, but not all ranchers were men. Margaret Borland was one of the very few frontier women who ran ranches and handled her own herds. She drove 1000 head of Texas Longhorn cattle up the Chisholm Trail from south Texas to Wichita, Kansas - a tough trip for the four young children she was forced to take with her.

Early Years
Margaret Heffernan was born April 3, 1824 in New York City. Her parents, both born in Ireland, had sailed to America a few years before Margaret's birth. Her father was a candlemaker who struggled to provide a living for his family. When land agent John McMullen came to New York telling tales of lucrative opportunities available in Texas, the Heffernans agreed to join his colony.

3.03.2015

Clara Brown

benevolent resident and philanthropist of Colorado

Pioneer and Philanthropist in Early Colorado

Traditionally, women's philanthropic activities were tied to their husband's wealth, but some women did it all by themselves. A freed slave, Clara Brown established a successful laundry business during the Colorado Gold Rush. She was a black pioneer, the first African American woman in Denver, a community leader and philanthropist.

Image: Clara Brown between 1875 and 1880

Early Years
Born a slave in Virginia in 1800, at a young age Clara Brown and her mother were sold to Ambrose Smith, a Virginian tobacco farmer. Smith was a kindly man and a devout Methodist; he took Clara and her mother to his church services.

10.25.2014

Maria Ruiz de Burton

Maria Ruiz de Burton, Mexican American author

First Female Mexican American Author to Write in English

Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton is among the best remembered authors of nineteenth-century Mexican American literature. Fully bilingual, de Burton was the first female Mexican American to write novels in English: Who Would Have Thought It? and The Squatter and the Don.

Early Years
Though records are sparse, Maria Amparo Ruiz was born into an aristocratic Latino family in Loreto on the Baja California peninsula of Mexico. Her grandfather, Don Jose Manuel Ruiz, was sent to the frontier to assist in the founding of missions in Baja.

Heading a large force of men, Ruiz left Loreto in 1780, and several missions were soon founded. For this, Ruiz was awarded a large grant of land, "...48,884 acres was conferred upon Lieutenant Jose Manuel Ruiz of the Spanish Army, July 10, 1804 for gallant services." As granddaughter of Ruiz, Maria would one day inherit the vast Rancho Ensenada de Todos Santos established on those lands by her grandfather.

7.03.2014

Adelicia Acklen

wealthy plantation owner Adelicia Acklen

One of the Wealthiest Women in the South

Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham (1817–1887) was one of the wealthiest women of the antebellum South. Her first husband died in 1846, leaving her an inheritance valued at approximately $1 million, which included seven Louisiana cotton plantations, a two-thousand-acre farm in Gallatin, Tennessee and hundreds of slaves. While Joseph Acklen was a great help to Adelicia in the operation of her many properties, she was actively involved in the management of her businesses, especially after his death.

Early Years
Adelicia Hayes was born on March 15, 1817 into a prominent family in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father was Oliver Bliss Hayes, a lawyer, judge and cousin of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States. Her mother was Sarah Clemmons Hightower Hayes of Franklin, Tennessee. Adelicia attended the Nashville Female Academy and at 17 was engaged to Alphonso Gibbs, a Harvard graduate who died before the wedding.

6.14.2014

Jane Aitken

Thomson Bible, printed by Jane Aitken, first woman to print the Bible in the US

Businesswoman Who Printed First Bible in America

Jane Aitken (1764–1832) is a significant historical figure in the early nineteenth century. She was one of the first women printers in the early United States and the first woman in the US to print an English translation of the Bible. Aitken was also a publisher, bookbinder, bookseller and businesswoman, a time when the independence of women was actively discouraged. She published at least sixty works from 1802 to 1812.

Image: The Thomson Bible, printed by Jane Aitken

Early Years
Jane Aitken was born July 11, 1764 in Paisley, Scotland, the eldest of four children born to Robert and Janet Skeoch Aitken. Her father Robert Aitken was a stationery and book merchant in Scotland as well as a talented printer and bookbinder. The Aitken family emigrated to the American Colonies in 1771 (Jane would have been 7 years old), and settled in Philadelphia, where Robert set up a business selling stationery and books, as well as printing and binding books.

4.11.2014

Rebecca Lukens

First and Most Prominent Woman CEO in the United States

iconic American businesswoman who ran a steel mill
Rebecca Lukens was an American businesswoman, who ran a steel mill from 1825 until her retirement in 1847. In the mid-1990s, the mill - the Lukens Steel Company - was considered the oldest continuously operating steel mill in the U.S. In 1994, Fortune magazine named Lukens America's first female CEO of an industrial company and inducted her into the National Business Hall of Fame.

Image: Portrait of businesswoman Rebecca Lukens

Early Years
Rebecca Webb Pennock, the eldest daughter of Isaac Pennock, was born on January 6, 1794. She grew up in the business, often accompanying her father in the mill. She had a great desire to learn, and with the support of both her father and cousins, Rebecca received a much better education than most girls of her era. She attended a boarding school in Wilmington, Delaware, where she studied French, mathematics and the sciences.

1.13.2013

Madeline La Framboise

female fur trader in northern and western Michigan

Native American Bussinesswoman

La Framboise was one of the most successful fur traders in Michigan, while it was still considered the Northwest Territory. At that time, fur trading was a difficult, dangerous and male-dominated occupation. Madame La Framboise was one of the most prominent early businesswomen in the territory.

Madeline Marcotte was born in February 1780 at Mackinac Island, the daughter of a French-Canadian fur trader Jean Baptiste Marcotte and Marie Nekesh, an Ottawa Indian. Madeline was only 3 months old when her father died. She was raised among her mother's people in an Ottawa village at the mouth of the Grand River near Grand Haven Michigan. She must have been a person of some status there, as her grandfather was Chief Kewinoquot.

6.17.2012

Lydia Sigourney

photograph of 19th century American poet, author and businesswoman Lydia Sigourney

Poet, Author, Educator and Businesswoman

Lydia Sigourney (1791–1865) was a popular poet, essayist and travel writer during the early and mid 19th century. Most of her works were published with just her married name Mrs. Sigourney. Her poetry, like her prose, was about public subjects - history, slavery, missionary work and current events - or treated personal matters, especially loss and death, as experiences common to all. In contrast to Emily Dickinson or Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sigourney wrote for popular consumption, and was among the first American women to establish a successful writing career.

Childhood and Early Years
Lydia Huntley was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on September 1, 1791, the only child of a gardener-handyman and his wife. Lydia's commitments to education, writing and charity were formed early. As a child she wrote poetry and essays and kept a journal.

5.23.2012

Hannah Watson

one of the first newspaper publishers in Colonial America

One of America's Earliest Female Publishers

In 1777 a fledgling nation of United States was emerging, and its patriots looked to their newspapers to keep them informed about the Revolutionary War. Boston papers had been shut down by the British, and in New York only Tory papers were being published. After her husband's death Hannah Watson (1749-1807) assumed responsibility for publishing the Connecticut Courant, the oldest and largest newspaper in the colonies, becoming one of the first female publishers in Ameica.

3.22.2009

Catherine Greene

American Patriot

Businesswoman and Inventor of the Cotton Gin

Catherine Littlefield was born on February 17, 1755, on Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. Her father, John Littlefield, served in the Rhode Island legislature, and her mother, Phebe Ray, was a descendant of the earliest settlers of Block Island. Her mother died when Catharine was ten years old, and she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle, Catharine Ray Greene and William Greene – the future governor of the state – in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Her aunt, an attractive energetic woman who was known as a charming hostess, took over the role of Catherine's mother, and supervised her education as a young woman of the upper classes. Present during her aunt's many social gatherings, Catherine caught the interest of several of their bachelor acquaintances when she came of age. A notable visitor was Benjamin Franklin, who had been a close friend of Aunt Catharine.

10.31.2008

Deborah Read Franklin

wife of Benjamin Franklin

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.

10.25.2008

Mary Katherine Goddard

early american newspaper publisher

First Female Newspaper Publisher (1775)

Mary Katherine Goddard (1738-1816) is famous for printing the first copy of the Declaration of Independence that included the names of all the signers. Like her younger brother William, Mary Katherine was educated by her mother, Sarah Updike Goddard, who taught them Latin, French and the literary classics. Mary Katherine's father, Dr. Giles Goddard, was postmaster of New London, Connecticut, and the family was living there when Dr. Goddard died in 1757, leaving a sizable estate.

William Goddard completed an apprenticeship in the printing trade, and when he came of age, the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where Sarah Goddard lent her son the money to begin a printing business – the first in that colony. Both mother and daughter also began their careers as printers there in 1762, when Mary Katherine was 24.

10.23.2008

Anna Zenger

The Printer's Trial: John Peter Zenger

Colonial Newspaper Publisher

The Trial of John Peter Zenger
Anna Catherine Maulin was born in Germany, and immigrated as a child in 1710 with her family to escape religious persecution. Upon their arrival, the Maulin family settled in what is now New York City.  

John Peter Zenger came to America from Germany with his parents in 1710 at the age of 13. His father died on the trip, leaving his mother to raise the children alone.

Zenger's mother agreed that John Peter would work as an indentured servant for William Bradford, who was a pioneer printer in the middle colonies. Zenger spent the next eight years with Bradford learning about printing.

10.17.2008

Elizabeth Timothy

colonial writing desk

First Woman Editor-Publisher in America

Elizabeth Timothy ( or Timothee) is recognized as America's first female newspaper editor and publisher, and one of the world's first female journalists. She performed these roles with distinction, especially considering her other responsibilities as mother, homemaker and widow.

Louis Timothy and his family were among a group of French Huguenot immigrants from Rotterdam who arrived in Philadelphia aboard the ship Britannia of London in 1731. Named on the ship's roster were Louis and four Timothy children: Peter, Louis, Charles, and Mary, ranging in age from 1 to 6. Although Elizabeth Timothy's name was not on the roster, she undoubtedly accompanied the family.

9.07.2008

Anne Geddy

Geddy family house

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.

3.02.2008

Dutch Women

Women of New Amsterdam and New Netherland

colonial Dutch women
For more than forty years, the women living in New Amsterdam (New York City) experienced more autonomy, more rights and more income than other colonial women.

Dutch Law
Colonists in New Amsterdam and New Netherland lived for the most part under the law as it was in the Netherlands. The orders given to the first settlers by the Dutch West India Company were to establish law and order in the colony as it was in the fatherland. When new situations arose, the Director General and Council enacted appropriate legislation, though still in conformity with the laws of the Netherlands.

2.01.2008

Margaret Hardenbroeck Philipse

colonial New York estate
Philipse Manor

The Year: 1659

The Philipses owned 52,000 acres of land along the Hudson River, where they constructed this lavish estate, clustered with mills, barns and other structures.

Born circa 1630, Margaret Hardenbroeck's early life in Holland is unclear, but she would have likely received some education. Holland was the only European country in seventeenth-century Europe to provide primary education to females. The Reformed Church urged equality for women, and the Dutch brought their liberal attitudes concerning women's rights to the New World.

In 1659, Margaret came to New Amsterdam (later New York) as an ambitious twenty-two-year-old with an unusual job—she was a factor for a well-to-do cousin, managing his New World dealings. A factor is an agent employed to sell merchandise for his principal for a commission. A factor may buy and sell in either his own name or his principal's name. Margaret did both, and she did not stay a factor for long.