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Wives of the Signers: The Women Behind the U.S. Constitution

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  • Elizabeth Grimke (1741 - 1792)
    constitutionfacts.. * Elizabeth Grimke (November 29, 1741- July 6, 1792)* She was the daughter of Charleston lawyer Frederick Grimke and Martha (Emmes) Grimke. She was the first cousin of John Fauchera...
  • Elizabeth Sherman (1726 - 1760)
    Source: Women of the Constitution: Wives of the Signers By Janice E. McKenney, Daughters of the American, District of Columbia pg 171-3.
  • Catherine Few (1764 - 1854)
    Wife of William Few, Signer of the US Constitution. **************************** Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom, page 194. By Jack Fruchtman, Jr.
  • Jane Ballareau Bedford (1746 - 1831)
    Find A Grave Memorial# 104646443 ; Ballareau Parker Bedford* Birth: 1746 New York, USA* Death: Jul. 26, 1831New Castle County, Delaware, USA* Jane was the daughter of James Parker of Boston * Family l...
  • Mary Dickinson (1740 - 1803)
    ******************************* Find A Grave Memorial# 61337487; Norris Dickinson * Birth: Jul. 19, 1740 Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA* Death: Jul., 1803 Wilmington, New Castle...

(This project is a work in progress.)

The U.S. Constitution is the most important document in the history of the United States. Of the 55 men who attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787, only 39 signed this document, plus William Jackson, the convention's secretary. Many of the men left wives and families to be there, a difficult but necessary sacrifice.

Behind every great man is a great woman. Here is a list of the women who supported the Founding Fathers, and took care of their affairs and families while they were away.

Sources:

Signatories and their Ladies:

Connecticut

William Samuel Johnson

  • Married Anne Beach (25 Apr 1729 - 24 Apr 1796) on November 5, 1749. She was the daughter of Sarah (died 1763) and William Beach. Together they had five daughters and six sons. Ann and William had seven children: Charity (1750-1777) m. Rev. Ebenezer Kneeland; Sarah (1754-1762); Gloriana Ann (1757-1785) married Roger Alden; Mary (1759-1583), unmarried; Samuel William (1761-1789) married Daniel C. Verplanck; and Robert Charles (1755-1806) who married Catherine?. Ann Beach died in New York on 26 April 1796 and was interred in the Johnson family vault in Stratford, "being the first person therein Interred."
  • Johnson married again, to a relative of Anne's, Mary Brewster Beach, but they had no children together.

Roger Sherman

  • Married Elizabeth Hartwell in 1749. Together they had seven children. She died in 1760.
  • Sherman married again to Rebecca Minot Prescott (1742-1813) on May 12, 1763. Together they had eight more children. Rebecca was friends with Betsy Ross, who let her sew three of the stars on the original United States flag. Because of her success in this role, Rebecca was picked to create the first flag of Connecticut. She was also referred to by George Washington as the "most beautiful of the Cabinet ladies." She died in 1813.

Delaware

Richard Bassett

  • Married Ann Ennals, (1746-1796) a woman from Maryland, in 1774. She was the daughter of Mary and Henry Ennals Jr. She was from Dorchester County, Maryland, sister of Mr Henry Ennals and the niece of Judge Ennals of the same county. She was known as Nancy in the family and was one of five children. Together they had three children. She with her sisters Kitty and Polly and their brother Henry converted to Methodism. In 1780 Francis Asbury, th • Married e great Methodist itinerant preacher (later bishop) reported that Ann Ennals Bassett, “a bright example of holiness”, was in great distress but was soon comforted by her husband’s conversion after a vision. Asbury and other prominent Methodists were frequent visitors, and in 1784 Bassett contributed $2,.000 to the building of Wesley Chapel in Dover. The Bassetts, despite their wealth and prominence, lived simply. Their house and table were reported to be very plain, with no distilled liquor being served. She died on 20 March 1784.
  • After Ann's death in 1796, Bassett married Elizabeth "Betsy" Garret, another Maryland native. She was a strong Methodist,* and both she and Richard Bassett spent significant time in their local church. She died in 1819.
    • There are no existing portraits of Ann or Betsy, as the Bassett mansion was destroyed in a fire not long after the death of its main residents.

Gunning Bedford Jr.

  • Married Jane "Jenny" Ballareau Parker in 1772. Jenny* was the daughter of James Parker, a journalist from New Jersey and a friend of Benjamin Franklin's. Franklin famously called Jenny "Jenky." She was classically educated and spoke French fluently, and her natural grace allowed her to catch the eye of Bedford. Together they had five children, two of which died in infancy. Jane Parker died at the age of 85, on July 26, 1831, outliving her husband by 19 years.

Jacob Broom

  • Married Rachel Pierce on December 14, 1773 and together they raised eight children, two of their children died in childhood. Rachel was the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Pierce of Greenville, New Jersey.

John Dickinson

  • Married Mary "Polly" Norris, the daughter of Isaac Norris II, the Speaker of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. She was an accomplished reader, avid correspondent, and an astute gardener. The two were married in secret, as Dickinson did not want to associate with the Society of Friends, a Quaker institution that the Norris family was associated with.* Together they had five children, three of whom died in infancy. Polly died on July 23, 1803 in Wilmington, Delaware.

George Read

  • Married Gertrude Ross Till (1733 -September 2, 1802) on January 11, 1763, and together they had five children. Gertrude was the daughter of the Rev. George Ross, the Anglican rector of Immanuel Church in New Castle sister of George Ross a future signer of the Declaration of Independence. Gertrude was a widow, previously married to Thomas Till. She was an avid gardener, and a lover of tulips, and spent many hours tending to them. Gertrude died on September 2, 1802, at her home in New Castle, Delaware.

Georgia

Abraham Baldwin

  • Never Married.

William Few

  • Married Catherine "Kitty" Nicholson (7 August 1764 – 7 August 1854) in July of 1788. Together they had three daughters. She was the daughter of Frances Wiltter and Commodore James Nicholson of the Royal Navy, and friend of writer Thomas Paine. Her father was the New York republican leader. She was the eldest daughter of eight children, two dying in infancy. The family moved to the eastern shore of Maryland by 1775, where her father, formerly in the Royal Navy, offered his services to Maryland. In recognition of those services, he was appointed as a captain in the new Continental Navy the following year. After the war, James and his family returned to New York, where his house became a meeting place for Republican politicians of New York City, including the followers of Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. William Few a Georgia Representative, had served in the Continental Congress from 1780-1788 and had lived in New York intermittently when Congress met there. It was there that “Kitty” and he met. On the occasion of her marriage, the Few Bible recorded “Catherine—married William Few, GA., married in New York by Rev. Doc. Livingston the 8th July 1788. Thomas Paine greatly admired Catherine and wrote several letters to her. After her marriage, he wrote a long letter to Kitty to congratulate her on her marriage to Colonel William Few, a senator from Georgia. Unfortunately, the two were estranged after Thomas Paine criticized formal religion. On his deathbed he expressed a wish to see her, and reluctantly she did. William Few and his wife visited Paine, but when she spoke some words of Christian hope to the dying man, he turned his face to the wall and kept silent. William Few was one of Georgia’s first US Senators (1789-1793). In 1799 he decided to move to New York for health reasons. Yellow fever was prevalent in New York, but his father-in-law took a spacious house on the eastern bank of the East River for both families. He decided to make the move permanent and bought a five-acre farm in the Washington Square section of Manhattan. He became active in the political life of new York and was a successful banker, dying in 1828. Catherine survived her husband by many years, living with her daughter Mary in New York. She died in Fishkill, New York on August 7, 1854. When she died the following account appeared in the family Bible: “Not withstanding her great age, she died or rather calmly fell asleep in full and clear possession of her mind, and a bright hope of immortality in the kingdom of God and Christ and was buried in the family vault, Trinity Churchyard.

Maryland

Daniel Carroll

  • Married his second cousin Eleanor Carroll (1732 - 13 April, 1763) in 1750, which brought him a sizable dowry of 3,000 pounds.* Together they had two children, a son and a daughter. The son is depicted in the only portrait ever created of Eleanor. Eleanor died on April 13, 1763 at the young age of 31, long before Daniel ever became a public figure. He never remarried.

Daniel Jenifer of St. Thomas

  • Never married.

James McHenry

  • Married Margaret "Peggy" Allison Caldwell (October 8, 1762 - November 20, 1833) in 1784 and wrote to her consistently throughout his career. Often his letters contained poetry he had written. They had a very happy marriage, and together had five children, two of whom died young. Peggy was deeply religious, and was not always interested in her husband's affairs, although she always supported him.* She died on November 20, 1833, outliving James by 17 years.

Massachusetts

Nathaniel Gorham

  • Married Rebecca Call (May 14, 1744 - November 18, 1812) on September 6, 1763 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the daughter of Caleb Call and Rebecca Stimson. Nathaniel and Rebecca had nine children together. She died on November 18, 1812.

Rufus King

  • Married Mary Alsop (October 17, 1769 - October 18, 1769) in New York City on March 30, 1786, the only daughter of John Alsop, a wealthy merchant, and a delegate for New York to the Continental Congress. Mrs. King was known as being beautiful with gentle manners. She died in Jamaica, New York on October 18, 1769.

New Hampshire

Nicholas Gilman

  • Married Ann Taylor on December 21, 1752 and together they had eight children.

John Langdon

  • Married Elizabeth"Betsy" Sherburne. Together they had two children, only one who survived to adulthood. After thirty-six years of marriage, Elizabeth died in 1813.

New Jersey

David Brearly

  • Married Elizabeth Mullen (1741-1791) in 1767. Her father died when she was young, so she was raised mainly by her mother. When Elizabeth was 18, she eloped with the son of the Earl of Carhampton, Henry Lawes Luttrell,* and together they fled to England. Unfortunately, the decision hadn't been legal because both were underage. Her mother went to retrieve her, to bring her back to New Jersey, while Henry continued onto England. She had been pregnant, however, and gave birth to a daughter soon after, which Brearly raised as his own once they were married. Together, David and Elizabeth had four children.
  • After Elizabeth Mullen died, Brearly Married Elizabeth "Betsy" Higbee and together they had three children. Elizabeth died on August 20, 1832 at the age of 81.*

Jonathan Dayton

  • Married Susan Williamson of Elizabethtown, New Jersey on March 28, 1779.* Together they had four children. Susan died in childbirth on November 27, 1804.

William Livingston

  • Married Susanna French in 1747, daughter of a well-to-do New Jersey landowner. Together they had 13 children. According to Livingston's biographer, Susannah had a strong influence on her husband in spite of his unyielding temper. She was a woman of sense and endless tenderness. She died on July 17, 1789.

William Paterson

  • Married Cornelia Bell (June 4, 1780 - Aug. 6, 1844) in 1779, daughter of the wealthy Somerset County landowner John Bell. Together they three children before her death in 1783. One of their children died young.
  • In 1784, Two years after Cornelia's death, he married Euphemia White, who had been a close friend of Cornelia's. She helped him raise his children.

New York

Alexander Hamilton

  • Married Elizabeth "Eliza" Schuyler (August 9, 1757 - November 9, 1854) on December 17, 1780, the daughter of American Revolutionary War General Phillip Schuyler and Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler of the influential New York Rensselaers. Together, Alexander and Eliza had 8 children. Because of the famous duel between Hamilton and Burr, Eliza outlived her husband for 50 years. She spent most of her life tending to widows and orphans, and co-founded the New York Orphan Asylum Society.

North Carolina

William Blount

  • Married Mary "Molsey" Grainger on February 12, 1228.* She was the granddaughter of Joshua Grainger, one of the founders of Wilmington, NC. Together, Mary and William had 9 children, three of whom died in infancy. Mary was strongly attached to North Carolina, and when Washington appointed Blount to be governor of Tennessee, she was reluctant to leave. However, Blount built a beautiful home for her and brought her family to the region, and she was able to live out the rest of her days peacefully. She died of Malaria in 1800, only a month or two before her husband died of unhappiness. The town of Maryville and the county of Grainger are named in honor of her.

Richard D. Spaight

  • Married Mary Leach (1760-1810) on March 24, 1788. Together they had three children. She died in 1810.

Hugh Williamson

  • Married Maria Apthorpe in January 1789, the daughter of the Honorable Charles Ward Apthorpe. Together they had two sons. Maria died soon after giving birth to their second son.

Pennsylvania

George Clymer

  • Married Elizabeth Meredith (1743-1815) on March 18, 1765. Elizabeth was born into a prominent Philadelphia family who were close friends with George Washington. Together they had nine children, five of whom reached adulthood. John Adams, after meeting her at a social dinner, described her in his diary as a "very facetious and social lady.*" She died in 1815, two years after her husband, in their estate in Summerseat, Pennsylvania.

Thomas Fitzsimons

  • Married Catherine Meade on November 23, 1761, the daughter of Robert Meade and Mary Stretch. She died on June 27, 1810.

Benjamin Franklin

  • Entered into a common-law marriage with Deborah Read (February 14, 1708 - December 19, 1774) in 1730. Their marriage would have been legal, except that Deborah was already married to John Rodgers, who had fled to Barbados to avoid paying his debts, never to return. Deborah was pivotal in raising Franklin's first son, and together they had two more children. Their daughter, Sally, died of smallpox as a child. Deborah died of a stroke on December 14, 1774.

Jared Ingersoll

  • Married Elizabeth Pettit (1758-1816) in 1781, daughter of Charles Pettit and Sarah Reed. Together they had three children.

Thomas Mifflin

  • Married his cousin Sarah Morris (April 5, 1747 - August 1, 1790) on March 4, 1765. Little is known about her life.

Gouverneur Morris

  • Married Anne "Nancy" Cary Randolph when he was 57. Nancy was the sister of Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., husband of Thomas Jefferson's daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, who was also her cousin. Gouverneur and Nancy had one child together, a son.

Robert Morris

  • Married Mary White (1749-1827) on March 2, 1769, and together they had seven children. Mary was born to Colonel Thomas and Esther White from a prominent family in Maryland, and her brother was Anglican Bishop William White. Mary was known for her hospitality, and was one of the most well-liked women of her generation. She did in 1827, at the age of 78.

James Wilson

  • Married Rachel Bird (1750-1786) on November 5, 1771, the daughter of William Bird and Bridget Hulings. Together they had six children. Rachel died in 1786.
  • After Rachel died, James married Hannah Gray (April 4, 1760 -1834) on September 19, 1793. They had a son, who died in infancy. When James died, Hannah married again.

South Carolina

Pierce Butler

  • Married Mary Middleton (1750 - 1790) in 1771, daughter of a wealthy South Carolinian. It was an advantageous marriage for Butler. However, the couple lost a majority of their wealth in the British occupation of South Carolina during the Revolutionary War. Together they had eight children, two of whom died young. Mary died in New York on November 13, 1790* from a drawn out illness. She was buried in her home town of Charleston, SC.

Charles Pinckney

  • Married Mary "Polly" Eleanor Laurens (Apr. 27, 1770 -Oct. 6, 1794) on April 27, 1788, daughter of a wealthy and politically powerful South Carolina merchant Henry Laurens. Together they had three children. She died in 1794, leaving Pinckney a widower.

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

  • Married Sarah Middleton in 1773, the daughter of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Henry Middleton.
  • After Sarah's death, he married Mary Stead (November 14th, 1796 to August 29th, 1797) in 1786. She once accompanied Charles to Paris, when he was appointed minister to France.

John Rutledge

  • Married Elizabeth Grimke (November 29, 1741- 1792) on May 1, 1763. Together they had 10 children. Rutledge was very devoted to his wife, and built the John Rutledge House in Charleston for her. Elizabeth's death on July 6, 1792 was a major cause of the illness that affected Rutledge in the last part of his life.

Virginia

John Blair Jr.

  • Married his cousin Jean Balfour on December 16, 1756 in Edinburgh, Scotland.* She was the daughter of a writer, Archibald Blair. Together they lived in Williamsburg, VA and raised six children, four of which lived to be adults. Jean died in 1792, leaving John a widower.

James Madison

  • Married Dolley Payne Todd (May 20, 1768 - July 12, 1849) on September 15, 1794, a widow who was 16 years his junior. James and Dolley had no children together. Dolley Madison was born into a Quaker family in North Carolina. She married John Todd in 1790, a Quaker from Philadelphia. Together they had two sons. In 1793, yellow fever broke out in the region, causing the death of her husband John Todd and her younger son William. Dolly was renowned for her social graces. Her hospitable nature contributed to her husband's popularity as president. Famously, when the capitol building burned in 1814, she is credited with saving the Lansdowne Portrait of George Washington.

George Washington

  • Married Martha Dandridge Custis (June 2, 1731 - May 22, 1802) on January 6, 1759, the widow of Daniel Parke Custis. Martha had four children with her first husband, only two of whom reached adulthood. George and Martha never had children together, but George raised Martha's children as his own. As the first First Lady, Martha established many of the customs which would be observed by future First Ladies. She died at her home on May 22, 1802. She was 70 years old.

Comments:

  • Retrieved from Janice E. McKenny's book: Women of the Constitution: Wives of the Signers. Found at:books.google.com
  • Notes on Mrs. Margaret McHenry attributed to Chapter 6 of The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry, Secretary of War under Washington and Adams by Bernard Christian Steiner