Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia

By Karin Wulf | Go to book overview
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Rachel Drapers Neighborhood:
Work and Community

Even in a city as large as Philadelphia, with a transient population and a seaport buzzing with daily arrivals and departures, dense webs of relationships underlay urban neighborhoods. Thus, when John Barker, the constable of Philadelphia's High Street Ward, set out to enumerate the residents of his district in 1775, he encountered familiar faces and families of long residence. Among the householders he greeted while making these rounds was the widow Rachel Draper, a tavernkeeper. Rachel Draper had lived in High Street Ward for over twenty years by the time Barker came to make his Constable's Return. Her husband, James, a tailor who had earned a modest living, had died relatively young. The September 8, 1763, Pennsylvania Gazette carried a notice that "ALL Persons indebted to James Draper, Taylor, deceased, by Notes or Book debts, are requested to make speedy Payment; and those that have any Accounts against said Estate, are desired to bring them in, in order that they may be adjusted by me RACHEL DRAPER, Administratrix." Rachel Draper was the sole executor of her husband's estate, a common phenomenon among Philadelphia's lower sort. The larger and more complex an estate was, the less likely it was that the widow was named as the sole executor, or even as a co-executor. After administering the settlement of her husband's estate, Rachel Draper set about making a living for herself and her two young daughters. She held onto the house, but her financial status was precarious. She was considered too poor and too burdened by the costs of supporting her young children to pay any taxes. 1.

Like many others among Philadelphia's working poor, Draper used

Information on the Drapers was compiled from the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting Births and Burials, 1686-1829, GSP; Hannah Benner Roach, " Taxables in the City of Philadelphia, 1756," Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine 22 ( 1961- 1962): 3- 41; PG, September 8, 1763; Tax Assessments and Constables' Returns. On tailors' wages, see Billy G. Smith, The "Lower Sort": Philadelphia's Laboring People, 1750- 1800 ( Ithaca, N.Y.: 1991), 119‐


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Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia


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