Oct 7, 2013

Eliza Lucas Pinckney

You've heard of Abigail Adams, Deborah Franklin, and maybe Mercy Warren, but do you know Eliza Pinckney? She is the mother to two Founding Fathers which twice qualifies her as a Founding Mother. Also, she has spunk. Lots of it. I want to tell you about her because I've decided I'm naming a daughter after her - she's that inspiring!

As a brief disclaimer, everything I've learned about her has come from the book Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts pages xvii to 12. I wish there were more pages about her! Still, this book is fabulous and if you have an ounce of feminism or patriotism in your blood you should go read it right now.

Have you read it yet? Well because I know you haven't I'll proceed to tell you about my new hero, Eliza.

Eliza moved to South Carolina with her family in 1734 where they had three plantations. Her father, George Lucas, left for Antigua to fight against the Spanish. That left Eliza, (age sixteen!!) in charge of all family (sick mother, toddler sister) and business affairs. She kept her father apprised, of course, and from those letters we learn so much about her.

Here are just a few of my favorite quotes:

"...by rising very early I find I can go through much business." (p.2)
"I am sorry I can't have sentiments favorable enough of him to take time to think on the subject...and beg leave to say to you that the riches of Peru and Chile if he had them put together could not purchase a sufficient esteem for him to make him my husband." (p.3) !! Take that!
"... tis' weak to complain." (p.9)

Those three plantations were not enough to satisfy her lust for learning, business, success, and what have you. She taught her sister and slaves to read and write, she was a lawyer for her neighbors, and most noteworthy of all, she envisioned and executed business endeavors which essentially made South Carolina valuable to England. Her largest scheme involved growing indigo to supply Europe with dye for their blue military uniforms. Talk about ambition! She overcame poor crops, insubordinate business partners, and mocking neighbors. After years of effort, her indigo grew to her satisfaction. And do you know what she did with her harvest? She distributed it - yes! to those same neighbors who mocked her effort and previous failures - so they could produce enough indigo to gain the attention of England. By 1747, she did just that. Just so you have an idea of how large her indigo export really was, one biographer mentioned that one year they shipped 1,107,660 pounds. That's a lot of indigo!

What impresses me most is her confidence. She first had the gumption to start her own business, knowledge about the economy, the foresight and dedication to persevere despite serious setbacks and humiliation. She exemplified humility by then sharing her success with all of South Carolina, the very people who humiliated her determination.

Don't think for a minute that she was satisfied with indigo, but you'll have to read Cokie Roberts' book to learn of her other business endeavors.

She married and had children as well (who go on to be quite important as you well know). It doesn't surprise me for a minute that she resolved "To make a good wife to my dear husband...to make it my study to please him. I am resolved to make a good child to my mother... I am resolved to be a good mother to my children..." (p.7). I love that her resolutions echo my own because then I can hope to emulate her in more ways than one.

Eliza was loving, intelligent, sincere, industrious, upright, and sometimes sassy. She is a great role model for youth, new mothers, aspiring entrepreneurs, experienced wives, and even grieving widows. I wish, alongside the great men who shaped this country, I had learned of her too.