At the age of 16, she was left behind to run not one, but three plantations! She was born in Antigua in the West Indies in 1722, attended a finishing school in England where she learned French, music and other studies “suitable” for women in those days. Not the kind of training that would prepare her for the bontanical and entreprenuerial life that lay ahead of her.
The family moved to a farming area just outside the quaint Charleston in South Carolina. Sadly, her mother died shortly after. If that wasn’t enough, Eliza Lucas Pinckney was informed by her father, a British Miliatry officer, that he would be returning to the Caribbean. The young teen, on the other hand, would be left behind to manage her siblings and run the three family farms!
But this girl was anything but intimidated. In her “spare time” on the farms, she began to notice that the growing textile industry was creating world markets for new dyes. Not one to be left out, she began experimenting with and growing her own indigo plants with big export plans for their lovely, coveted blue dye. In 1745, she had a taste of success managing to ship 5,000 pounds. Eliza, however, had big vision. She wanted the crop to benefit her neighbors too. So, she shared her plants, and within two years time 130,000 pounds of Indigo shipped out of Charleston. (A few years later, the number hit well over 1,000,000 pounds).
Indigo was the new hot commodity. It quickly became the #2 cash crop (right behind rice- as cotton came later). And Eliza kept going. She experimented with other crops, too. Another pet project was a large fig orchard. The plan was to export dried figs too. After that, she moved on to flax, hemp and silk, all before she was 22!
That’s when she finally married Charles Pinckney. He was a politician that traveled frequently who was thrilled by and supported Eliza’s every endeavor. Within five years of marrying Charles, she had four children.
The new babies prompted her move into early childhood education where one new theory caught her eye. It was called, the “tabula rasa”. John Locke was the man behind that movement and it went like this: a person’s mind at birth is a blank slate upon which personal experiences create an impression. Eliza poured those concepts into the raising of her sons who went on to play major roles in the American Revolution and America’s new government.
The British raided her property during the War of Independence leaving her ruined financially.
It didn’t matter. When she died in 1793, President George Washington requested to be one of the pallbearers at her funeral.
If you’re ever in Philadelphia, be sure to stop by St. Peter’s Churchyard. Look for her tombstone. It reads:
“Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1722-1793, lies buried in unmarked grave. Mother of Two S.C. signers of Declaration of Independence.”
Not a lot about her on that marker, but then, who really reads or remembers your stone. They recall and talk about your accomplishments and your contribution to society. And I’d say, she rocked it on both of those accounts.
Just my thoughts. Yours?