New Jersey Women's History



Notable Facts



 Material Objects


 Topical Index








Period One
- 1775
Period Two
1776 - 1843
Period Three
1844 - 1879
Period Four
1880 - 1920
Period Five
1921 - 1960
Period Six
1961 -
Pre-European Settlement Era lenape1_tn.jpg (2502 bytes) Lenape women, Native Americans, were the first New Jersey women.  They lived in the "Land of the Lenape" for more than 12,000 years.   The Lenape were a matrilineal, matriarchal society.
  lenape2_tn.jpg (2496 bytes)  



The Dutch West Indies Company began settlement of Dutch women and men in New Amsterdam and in 1629 the Dutch began to settle Pavonia in what is now Jersey City.


The New Sweden Company began the settlement of Swedish men and women along the Delaware River.





During a dispute with the Hackensack Indians, Dutch soldiers under New Netherlands Governor Willem Kieft massacred 80 Lenape men, women, children and infants at Pavonia.



By 1660


There were scattered Dutch settlements in New Jersey.   Smallpox and other imported diseases ravaged the Lenape population.




  Under "The Concessions and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of New Caesaria, of New Jersey" free English settlers, women as well as men, were promised free acreage in return for settling people on their land.   Christian indentured servants, women as well as men, were also promised lesser acreage after their term of service was completed.  The "Concessions" also encouraged the bringing of slaves as laborers into East Jersey, by giving added acreage to slave holders who settled in the colony with their male and female African slaves.
1666 kiersted_tn.jpg (9737 bytes)

Lenni Lenape chief Oratam granted to Sarah Kiersted (17th century), a Dutch settler of New Amsterdam, 2260 acres in what is now Ridgefield Park, Bogota, and Teaneck for her assistance to him as a negotiator and arbitrator when the Dutch were in control of the colony.




The British colony of New Jersey was divided into East Jersey and West Jersey.


Elizabeth Carteret (1615-1696) became proprietor of East Jersey after the death of her husband George Carteret.  As executor of the colony, she sold the land of East Jersey in 1682 to Quakers.


The Lenape population of East and West Jersey is estimated to have been anywhere between 3,000 and 24,000 people.  Colonial encroachment on hunting grounds and purchases of Lenape land, European diseases to which the Lenape had no resistance, and westward migration as far as the Ohio River drastically reduced the Lenape population.


Elizabeth Haddon Estaugh (ca. 1680-1762) a British-born American Quaker, founded a home for traveling ministers on land her father owned in New Jersey. She managed the plantation and served as clerk of the Quaker women's meeting for over 50 years. She is considered by some to be the founder of Haddonfield, New Jersey.





New Jersey became a royal province with a British and European population of about 10,000 men and women: Dutch, Swedish, English, Scots. They were Puritan, Baptist, Quaker, Presbyterian and Anglican. There were also numbers of African slaves, especially in the former East Jersey, where in some areas most white families owned slaves.





Sybilla Righton Masters (unknown -1720) of Burlington Township, received in London what was probably the first patent granted to an American colonist, a patent for a machine to prepare Indian corn by stamping rather than grinding. 





It is estimated that 32,000 Europeans and Africans lived in the royal province of New Jersey. 47% of these people were female, 8% were Africans.




The Great Awakening, a period of religious zeal sparked by preacher George Whitefield, stirred religious enthusiasm in New Jersey.




It is estimated that 61,000 people lived in the royal province of New Jersey. Slightly less than 45 % were female, 7.5% were African.

1746   The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) was founded in 1746 by Presbyterians. It did not educate women. Esther Edwards Burr, the wife of the college’s second president, played an important role at the young college, providing lodging to visiting clergymen and dignitaries, as well as to students.
1753 The first known poems by poet Annis Boudinot Stockton (1736-1801) were written when Stockton was sixteen and living in New Brunswick, NJ. 

An estimated 200 remaining Lenape men and women of New Jersey moved to the Brotherton Reservation in the Burlington County pine barrens.  Others had intermarried with colonial settlers.




Women in the colonies brought with them the types of clothing they had worn in England and the Continent. Wealthy women tried to emulate in their clothing their wealthy counterparts in Britain and France. Other women made practical clothing from available materials to suit their hard working lives.


Rutgers College was founded by the Dutch Reformed Church.  It did not educate women.


  Many infants and children did not survive the harsh conditions of colonial times.

  doc03.gif (276 bytes) As a British colony New Jersey was subject to English Common Law, and its women, especially married women, were subject to the limitations of property rights and civil rights familiar to women in England.
1772   Patience Lovell Wright (1725-1786) of Bordentown, notable wax sculptor, left for London where she created wax portraits of important figures of the day.  She reportedly passed information to the American Patriots during the Revolutionary War.

Jemima Condict (1754-1779) wrote in her diary about events leading to the Revolutionary war.


Selected Sources

Joan N. Burstyn, ed., Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997).

Gregory Evans Dowd, The Indians of New Jersey (Trenton: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1992).

Howard L. Green, ed., Words that Make New Jersey History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995).

Carmela A. Karnoutsos, New Jersey Women (Trenton: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1997).

Maxine N. Lurie, ed., A New Jersey Anthology (Newark: New Jersey Historical Society, 1994).

Clement A. Price, Freedom Not Far Distant (Newark: New Jersey Historical Society, 1980).

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