Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia

By Karin Wulf | Go to book overview

[1]
Martha Cooper's Choice:
Literature and Mentality

Many a father worried over his daughter's future. David Cooper, raising his children alone after the death of his wife in 1759, was especially concerned about his eldest daughter, Martha. Was she prepared for adult‐ hood? Had he done everything he could to help prepare her? He was not sure. Martha's successes and failures would be the test of David Cooper's parenting skills, and, for better or for worse, she would be a role model for her younger brothers and sisters. Cooper was an expressive man, given to directing his thoughts and emotions through the nub of a pen. So when Martha Cooper began to look less like a girl and more like a young woman to her father, he sat down to write to her of his love and concern.

"My Daughter Martha," he began, "Thou art now drawing near the State of a Woman, the Journey of Life, lies before thee, now is the Critical Stage." 1. In her father's eyes, the most treacherous part of Martha's "Journey" was the decision to marry. "When thee comes to know the World," he warned, "thee will admire to find how few are happy in a married life." The worst marriages were marked by a painful inequity, and Cooper brooded over the possibility that Martha would suffer this kind of unhappiness. It was not his role to make decisions for her, for he had determined that "thee shall be thy own Chooser," but he wanted to make sure she understood the ramifications of a poor choice:.

Oh how would it afflict me, what unhappiness would it intail on the remainder of my days, should I live to see thee disagreeably married, tyed for Life to a Man not worthy of thee, & who after he had thee fast would disregard thee & make thee a Slave that himself might be a GentleMan—

____________________
1.
David Cooper to Martha Cooper, n.d., Allinson Collection, QC.

-25-

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