- She Merchants
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Margaret Hardenbroek De Vries Philipse (1631-1686-90), was not a typical colonial woman. She was financially independent & very successful as a merchant & ship owner. She sailed back & forth across the often harsh Atlantic to manage her financial affairs. Much of her independence stemmed from the fact that she was part of the Dutch society that settled early New York. New Amsterdam as a Dutch society did afford women the independence to work and did not completely strip them of their capital and resources when they married. She was born in Elberfeld in the Rhine Valley of Westphalia in Germany, the daughter of Adolph Hardenbroek and his 2nd wife Maria Katernberg. She was living in the Dutch colony of New Netherland by 1659, having been sponsored by her brother Abel Hardenbroek who signed an indenture to work for the Ten Eyck family in New Amsterdam.
Margaret was 28 when she married her first husband, Pieter DeVries (1603 – 1661), on Oct. 10, 1659. DeVries, a wealthy, widowed merchant-trader, was 28 years older than his new bride. Within the year, the newlyweds had a daughter, Maria, who was baptized Oct. 3, 1660. During the same year, Pieter DeVries also died, leaving a considerable estate. After Pieter’s death in the spring of 1661, Margaret immediately took over his business as a shipper, merchant, and trader. She shipped furs to Holland in exchange for ready-made Dutch merchandise, which she sold to the residents of New Amsterdam.
Margaret’s second husband was Frederick Philipse, a rising power in the economic, social, and political life of New Amsterdam. Just as they were to be married in the Dutch Reformed Church of New Amsterdam, the Court of Orphan Masters requested Margaret to present an inventory of her child’s paternal inheritance. The wedding could not take place until she gave the Orphan Masters, who protected the inheritance rights of children who had lost a parent, a complete and accurate accounting of the financial affairs of her late husband Pieter Rudolphus de Vries. Because her late husband’s business records were in disarray, Margaret could not produce acceptable accounting.
Frederick Philipse, desperate to save his pregnant fiancée the humiliation of an out-of-wedlock birth, eventually signed a pre-nuptial legal document stating that he would make the child Maria De Vries an heir equal with any children he would have by Margaret Hardenbroek. They were finally allowed to marry, and their 1st child Phillip was born three months later in March of 1663.
In her 2006 book The Women of the House, Jean Zimmerman explains that Margaret chose to establish the partnership with her 2nd husband according to the census, crafting the age-old prenuptial contract that explicitly denied a husband unlimited power over his wife. As a she-merchant, who already ran an independent trading concern, Margaret needed the control of her finances. Entering into her marriage under usus ensured that the property she brought to the marriage, the house lots in Manhattan and Bergen, ships that now included the “New Netherland Indian”, “Beaver”, “Pearl” and “Morning Star”, and her furniture, plate and linens would remain hers. She would continue as a ‘free merchant of New Amsterdam’, as court transcripts described her.
Margaret & Frederick Philipse went on to have 4 children together in addition to Maria (also known as Eva): Anna, Philip, Adolphus, and Rombout, who died in infancy. Adolphus, who never married, followed in his father’s business assuming control of his overseas trading operations. Their son Philip was also involved in cross-Atlantic shipping and trading and was later sent to Barbados in the West Indies. In Barbados, Philip married the daughter of the governor of the island. His wife died shortly after the birth of their only child, a son. Frail Philip died the following year. Their young son Frederick was sent back to New York, to be raised by his relatives. He would eventually receive the Philipse estate when his bachelor uncle Adolphus died in 1719. Margaret and Frederick’s daughter Eva married Jacobus Van Cortlandt who established the Lower or Junior branch of the Van Cortlandt family on property adjacent to the Phillipse manor in Yonkers.
Our Mission:The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America actively promotes our national heritage through historic preservation, patriotic service, and educational projects.