Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia

By Karin Wulf | Go to book overview

[6]
Lydia Hyde's Petition:
Property and Political Culture

In November of 1765 Lydia Hyde joined with five other women shopkeepers, including her sister Elizabeth and her neighbor Magdalena Devine, to sign the resolution of "a general meeting of the merchants and traders" of Philadelphia protesting the Stamp Act and agreeing to forgo the importation and sale of British goods. 1. In endorsing the resolution, Hyde and other members of the mercantile community gave up a substantial source of profits, just as their urban neighbors gave up goods they had come to rely upon, including finished cloth and tea. These nonimportation agreements made and enforced throughout the American colonies proved very effective in combating British ministerial efforts to impose new taxes on the colonies. Confronted with this threat to their increasingly important American market, British merchants withdrew their support from such parliamentary policies. 2. Thus, Lydia Hyde participated in one of the most important political movements of her day. An unmarried business woman of property, Hyde acted as other women in colonial Philadelphia did, to protect her interests by political intervention.

Like the other women who signed the agreement, Hyde was a retailer; from her shop in Philadelphia's central Chestnut Ward, she sold dry goods and tea. A few of the other women, especially Elizabeth Paschall and Magdalena Devine, were quite wealthy and possessed substantial enterprises. Hyde's shopkeeping, on the other hand, was a modest affair, which kept her and her sister and partner, Elizabeth Hyde, in regular business over several decades but rarely, if ever, offered more than meager profits. From the late 1750s, if not earlier, the Hydes had shared the

____________________
1.
Non-importation Agreement, Philadelphia, November, 1765, Am 0337, HSP.
2.
The boycotts that accompanied the Sugar and Stamp acts are discussed in Edmund S. Morgan and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution, rev. ed. ( New York, 1962), 50, 70, 118- 119, 331- 333, 369- 370.

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