For more than 300 years…

scholars, economists, and political analysts have posed their theories as to why New Amsterdam thrived when other attempts at European settlement in North America failed.  In her book The Women of the House, Jean Zimmerman explains that from the beginning, New Amsterdam was established as a “company town” rather than for religious or ethnic reasons.  Run by the Dutch West India Company, New Amsterdam was set up for success with a plan in place for sustainability, diversity, and an empowered role for woman.

“Whether colonists arrived as employees of the Company, sold it the products of their land, or shopped for tools at its store, they all depended upon it for survival.  In exchange, though, the Company had always taken care to provision its colonists – unlike, say, the English, who’s ill-equipped settlers first landed in Virginia in 1607 and, faced with famine, choked down snakes, leather boots, and sometimes each other.  To the Dutch, food mattered.  In 1625, immediately after the first vessels reached Manhattan, three ships followed with more than one hundred head of hogs, sheep, cows, and horses destined for Company farms.”
—The Women of the House, page 5.

With the New Amsterdam pioneers basic needs covered and unburdened by religious or ethnic persecution, citizens of New Amsterdam were free to focus on the task at hand, namely commerce.

The role of women in the Dutch colony of New Netherlands was also unlike that of their English, French and Spanish counterparts.  Dutch women were able to work, run businesses, and own property equally with men. One particular woman, Margaret Hardenbroeck, a “She Merchant” whose unique role in New Amsterdam as an independent trader is the focus of author Jean Zimmerman’s well researched book. In “Women of the House,” Zimmerman delves into four generations of women who ruled their destinies and were autonomous, freethinking females.

The NSCD/NY uses the New Amsterdam term “She Merchants” broadly to capture and celebrate the important role of women in colonial history from New Amsterdam to New York. The NSCD/NY Society is dedicated to educating the community about formidable colonial woman in all aspects of daily life including commerce and politics and how they are relevant today.

The women who settled the land we now know as New York were exceptional.  From Margaret Hardenbroeck, the New Amsterdam She Merchant, to Justine Van Rensselear Townsend who, as President of The National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York, took her cause to establish the first house museum in New York all the way to the New York State Legislature in Albany. WOMEN continue to impact the vibrant history of New York.



215 East 71st Street,
New York, N.Y., 10021
Tel (212) 744-3572,
Fax (212) 988-1776

Van Cortlandt House Museum

The Van Cortlandt House Museum, is the oldest building in The Bronx, New York City.
Van Cortland House


We offer an authentic experience based on colonial daily life in New Amsterdam through our interactive field trip program which ties in with the New York City Department of Education Social Studies standards.

virtutes majorum filiae conservant

(women are the keepers of the past)