Margaret Brent, Suffragette?


Figure 1.  We have no evidence that this thimble from Mattapany was used by Margaret Brent, but it is a type of colonial artifact typically associated with women. Photo by Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. Courtesy of Naval District Washington Region.

Figure 1. We have no evidence that this thimble from Mattapany was used by Margaret Brent, but it is a type of colonial artifact typically associated with women. Photo by Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. Courtesy of Naval District Washington Region.

Thimbles, like this copper alloy example recovered from Mattapany (18ST390), the 17th-century home of Charles Calvert, third Lord Baltimore, are often deemed women’s objects.  Of course, thimbles were employed by male tailors and other craftsmen working in trades that required needles.  But, in this blog, I am using a thimble in its more traditional sense as a women’s object.

The topic of today’s blog starts with a 17th –century female who defied contemporary gender roles.  Margaret Brent and several siblings moved to the Maryland colony in 1638, when Mistress Brent was 37 years of age.  Much has been written about Margaret Brent over the intervening centuries.  Among the unofficial titles she has been given are “America’s first feminist”, “the real first woman attorney in Maryland”, “gentleman” and the somewhat less kindly designation “spinster”.  She was the first female in Maryland to hold land in her own right, having been granted over a thousand acres in St. Mary’s County by Lord Baltimore (Neal 1982).  She appeared in court on her own behalf, seeking reparation for debts and became a trusted friend of Leonard Calvert and executor of his estate (Cinlar 2004). Continue reading

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