Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia

By Karin Wulf | Go to book overview

[3]
Mary Sandwith's Spouse:
Family and Household

In the hot summer months of 1771, Elizabeth Drinker and various members of her family made their annual pilgrimage away from the city to the cooler climate of the countryside. From their summer home in Frankford or from the baths at Bristol, the Drinkers still visited with friends in Philadelphia and Burlington, or welcomed visitors from farther away. 1. Often while Elizabeth spent the entire summer in the country, her husband, Henry, spent a good deal of time attending to business in the city. Some of their five children also moved back and forth between the two residences. Henry and the Drinker children moved between two women as well. While Elizabeth stayed in the country, her spinster sister, Mary Sandwith, managed the household in Philadelphia, providing comfort and assistance to Henry and affection and attention to the children. By all accounts, the children were devoted to their aunt. In that summer of 1771 young Billy Drinker insisted that his aunt stay with him in the city, threatening, as she reported to Elizabeth Drinker, to "nail my frock" if she tried to leave. 2. Henry was similarly pleased with the arrangement. While spending weeks at a time away from his lawful wife, Elizabeth, he appreciated the domestic comforts and services that his sister-in-law provided. He was so content, he confided to Elizabeth, that he felt especially "clever ... to have two wives." 3.

Mary Sandwith lived with Henry Drinker throughout the fifty years of her sister's marriage. 4. She never married herself, but instead became an

____________________
1.
For the Drinkers in Bristol, see Elaine Crane, ed., The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker ( Boston, 1991), vol. 1, 159-66.
2.
Mary Sandwith to Elizabeth Drinker, Philadelphia, July 19, 1771, Drinker-Sandwith papers, vol. 2, p. 80, HSP. See also Crane, ed., The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker,xxiv.
3.
Elizabeth Drinker to Mary Sandwith, Bristol, July 13, 1771. Drinker-Sandwith papers, vol. 2, p. 80, HSP.
4.
Perhaps longer; Henry Drinker died in 1809, Elizabeth Drinker in 1807. Mary Sandwith lived until 1815.

-85-

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