From Publishers Weekly
In 1659, 22-year-old Margaret Hardenbroeck arrived in New Amsterdam as a highly independent, unattached "she-merchant" who collected debts from a Dutch cousin's customers and sought out buyers for European merchandise. When she died three decades later, Margaret was an enormously rich, twice-married mother of five with a real estate empire stretching from Westchester and New Jersey to Barbados and a fleet of trading ships trafficking in slaves, furs, tobacco, textiles and molasses. Zimmerman's (Made from Scratch: Reclaiming the Pleasures of the American Hearth
) prodigious research unearths a mother lode of data on colonial American women, from the differences in Dutch and English inheritance laws to the fact that wealthy female colonists eschewed underpants and menstruated into exquisite handcrafted gowns. This rich history loses some momentum when the spotlight shifts from the feisty Margaret and her bustling Manhattan milieu to minibiographies of those women who followed in her wake on her Westchester estate. Her husband's pious second wife, Catherine, built a church; granddaughter-in-law Joanna was a socialite political wife whose privileged realm was rocked by an alleged slave revolt; and Joanna's daughter Mary rejected George Washington for a Tory soldier. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW
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At the time of her death, in 1691, Margaret Hardenbroeck was reputedly the richest woman in the English province of New York. Over the course of the 30 years since she had immigrated to colonial New Amsterdam as a self-sufficient young Dutch maiden determined to carve out a place for herself in the New World, she had amassed an impressive fortune, operated a thriving business as a fur trader, assembled a fleet of sailing vessels, built an impressive real-estate portfolio, and earned a well-deserved reputation as a shrewd she-merchant. Margaret's most important legacy, however, was the example she set for the generations of female descendents who followed in her remarkably independent footsteps. This extraordinary story of an American dynasty founded and perpetuated by women will be a valuable addition to both colonial and women's history collections. Margaret FlanaganCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved