Eliza Lucas Pinckney: Our Women’s History Focus

Posted By Bill Payer on Mar 19, 2024 | 0 comments


Eliza Lucas Pinckney was an easy choice as a program subject for Women’s History Month. Although known mainly as the mother of two key Lowcountry figures of the Revolution, she was also a key figure in the development of indigo as an important cash crop in the Charleston area.

And our speaker was an easy choice as well. Faye Jensen recently retired after seventeen years as CEO of the South Carolina Historical Society. She has contributed chapters to Modern First Ladies and Making A New South: Race, Leadership and Community after the Civil War.

She serves on the boards of the Waring Historical Library and the South Carolina Hall of Fame.
 In her introduction tonight, Mike Dahlman thanked her for her support and encouragement when he and Beth Bush co-founded DIHS 13 years ago!

Jensen told a packed house (more than 80 people in attendance) the fascinating tale of a woman of privilege who made sure her children were raised with high expectations and high standards..

Born on Antigua (where he father was Lt. Governor) and educated in England, Eliza Lucas moved to South Carolina at 16 with her mother and sister Polly. The family owned three plantations in the Charleston area. Eliza turned her love of botany into an effort to develop indigo as a cash crop to complement the areas dependence on rice. Family friend Charles Pinckney, a widower, married Eliza when she was 25 and he was 45. They had 4 children in the following 4 years! They had one daughter, Polly. One of their sons died soon after birth. Charles Cotesworth (the oldest) and youngest child Thomas both achieved fame in the military and in government of the new nation.

Jensen traced how the boys were shipped to England for education…and how the bias they felt as “colonials” at posh English schools and colleges made them even more supportive of growing political dissatisfaction back in Carolina.

Sometimes it’s the reminders of how different life was ‘back then.’ that stand out in a presentation like Tuesday night’s. Consider the letter book.

Over the long years her sons were studying in England, Eliza continued her parenting via letters. Keep in mind the mail was delivered by sailing ship over the course of months. It was common at the time to keep a copy of letters in a :”letter book” so that when you received a reply you could look back and see what you had said! Eliza missed no opportunity to remind her sons they were loved but also were subject to great expectations.

For a link of Faye Jensens presentation…complete with an introduction by Mike Dahlman who explains Faye’s ties to the beginning of DIHS CLICK HERE

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