Sunday, March 31, 2024

Daughters of James Alexander Hamilton

It has been an amazing Women's History Month! I appreciate all my guests and readers who have participated. For our final day, I would like to share a little bit about the daughters of James Alexander Hamilton. Each of them, of course, has their place in my next book. The Hamiltons were a close family who spent significant time together at James's Nevis on the Hudson River near Sleepy Hollow. Today, let's talk a little bit about his four daughters.

His eldest, named Elizabeth after her grandmother, was born 8 October 1811. She married George Lee Schuyler in 1835, and they had three children. I'm sharing an image of those children, since I have not discovered any of Elizabeth, who was called Eliza by family and friends. I have found many letters written between Eliza and her father as evidence of their close relationship. Eliza died of cancer in 1863 at age 52 while she was in Washington volunteering for the war effort. 

In what is likely her last letter to her father, she wrote, "If you could see, my dear Father, the love and devotion of every one. To one so independent of others, it is worth while to be sick, to learn so rich a lesson from them. I look to you, my dear Father, to keep up the family tone and spirit now, as you have ever done. Shall we receive good only from God, as we have all our lives - and when the good is veiled, so that we do not see it, shall we complain? Or even bear the sorrow, like a scourged slave: My spirit rises above such abject submission, in to harmony with the Divine Will. What God wishes to do for us and with us, is hidden in the future….This Life is the gift of God; this everlasting Life, which the loss of a tired body will set free for fresh youth and zest."

Eliza's daughter, Louisa Lee Schuyler, became a well-known leader in women's charitable work and nursing, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother.

Fun fact: since Elizabeth Hamilton married George Lee Schuyler, she was Elizabeth Hamilton Schuyler, while her grandmother was Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton!

James's second daughter, Frances, was born 2 October 1813, almost exactly 2 years after her sister, Eliza. Fanny, as she was often called, married George Bowdoin in 1832, and it is through this couple that most modern day descendants trace their lineage to James.

Fun Fact: Fanny's husband was named George Richard James Sullivan, but he took the last name Bowdoin from his mother's side, as did his brothers, in order to inherit the family fortune.

A third daughter, Mary, was born on New Year's Day 1818, and was named after her mother, Mary Morris Hamilton. She was one of the original members of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association that saved George Washington's home from falling into disrepair and ruin. Mary was the vice-regent for New York and raised $40k toward the purchase of Mount Vernon. She also attempted to keep Mount Vernon accessible during the Civil War, which was difficult due to its location in Virginia. Mary doubted the MVLA could afford to maintain the estate & encouraged transferring ownership to the federal government. A difference of opinion over this caused Mary to leave the organization, which still owns Mount Vernon to this day.

Mary also co-founded the New York School of Design for Women in 1852. It eventually became part of the Cooper Union. She was an active volunteer alongside her sister, Elizabeth, and niece, Louisa. Elizabeth died in 1863, and six years later her widower, George Lee Schuyler, married Mary. George Lee Schuyler is buried in the James A Hamilton family plot at Sleepy Hollow between the two sisters.

When admirers wished to honor Mary after her death with a statue of her at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, relatives filed a right to privacy suit to stop them, saying that Mary would not have wished it. 

The youngest of James A Hamilton's daughters is the one I discovered the least about. Her name was Angelica, and she was born 13 November 1819. James wrote several letters during his trips to Europe in which he mentions Angelica being with him. She married quite late in life for the era, becoming the second wife of Richard Milford Blatchford in 1860. Angelica was buried in the James A Hamilton family plot at Sleepy Hollow when she died in 1868, and her husband remarried again. She had no children. 

I have found no images of Angelica. Pictured is the James A Hamilton family plot at Sleepy Hollow. James, his wife, four of their five children, and three grandchildren are buried here.


Catch up on the rest of my celebration of Women's History Month

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