Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia

By Karin Wulf | Go to book overview

[2]
Elizabeth Norris s Reign:
Religion and Self

Elizabeth Norris was descended from one of the most privileged families in colonial Pennsylvania. Her father, Isaac Norris, Sr., was extraordinarily wealthy, having capitalized on his family connections with Quaker merchants in England and the West Indies to market Philadelphia trade goods. Her mother, Mary Lloyd Norris, was the daughter of Thomas Lloyd, the colony's lieutenant governor and a close advisor of William Penn. A more distinguished Quaker lineage was hard to find. The wealthy Norris and Lloyd families had both converted to Quakerism in the seventeenth century. 1. Born in 1703, Elizabeth Norris died in 1775 as one of the wealthiest women in the colony. Two of her three sisters married men from similarly prominent families. Elizabeth and her sister Deborah, however, never married.

Elizabeth set about creating a very different life for herself from that of most other women of her generation. From quite early in her adulthood, she expressed a resistance to contemporary patterns of gender hierarchy, provoking a reaction in her father similar to John Adams's deliberate misunderstanding and dismissal of his wife's admonitions that the Revolutionary government "Remember the Ladies." In 1731, when Elizabeth was in her mid-twenties, her father reported from Philadelphia to his niece Prudence Moore in the West Indies that the family had just passed a pleasant evening reading aloud from Moore's letters. Elizabeth, he wrote, was so full of admiration for this cousin that she intended to make Moore "Patroness by a Dedication" in a "Learn'd peice" she and her sister Hannah Harrison were writing "to shew the Injustice of mens Assuming so great Superiority over the Women." 2. Isaac Norris claimed

____________________
1.
Genealogical information on the Lloyd and Norris families is included in entries for Thomas Lloyd and Isaac Norris I in Craig Horle et al., eds., Lawmaking and Legislators in Pennsylvania: A Biographical Dictionary, 2 vols. ( Philadelphia, 1991).
2.
Isaac Norris, Sr., to Prudence Moore, December 8, 1731, Isaac Norris Copybook, HSP.

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