Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1722-1793

  • Eliza-Lucas-Pinckney-WWP

Woman Category: Business & EntrepreneurshipWoman Tags: Businesswoman and Inventor

  • HerStory

    A businesswoman and plantation owner in South Carolina, who cultivate indigo, making it the second cash crop export of the colony.

    Born on the island of Antigua, a British colony in the Caribbean, where her family owned three sugarcane plantations. Eliza was the oldest daughter of a Colonel and had two brothers and a sister. At the time, most girls were trained to be wives and mothers and did not receive a formal education, but she was sent to a boarding school in England. There she studied subjects such as French and music, but her favorite was botany. When she was 15 years old, the family moved to South Carolina inheriting three tracts of land. The following year, her father had to return to Antigua to deal with the political conflict between England and Spain, so at 16, while her brothers were studying in England and her mother was ill, she took care of the family’s plantations, in South Carolina and overseers.
    Her father sent her different types of seeds to try growing on the plantations, and Eliza planted hemp, ginger, alfalfa, and cotton. Her main goal was cultivating and improving the indigo plant’s strains, addressing the needs of the growing textile industry. She consulted with enslaved Africans who were experienced in growing indigo in the West Indies. After three years of failed attempts, she succeeded to grow and process indigo into a dye, and she shared her seeds and methods with other planters. In only three years, Indigo became the second cash crop of the colony, and by the Revolutionary War, it made up one-third of the exports from South Carolina, with a value of over $30 million of today’s terms.
    At 22, Eliza married a widower plantation owner named Charles Pinckney, who was 23 years older than her. As a married woman, she channeled her focus to her husband and their four children. They moved to London for a few years before returning to South Carolina, where soon after her husband has died. Widowed at 36, she took care of their plantations, as well as her father’s estates. She also searched for a cure for cancer, the disease she died from at the age of 71. To this day, indigo is a symbol of South Carolina and the state’s official color.

    “Education which esteems a more valuable fortune than any could have given, will make me happy through my future life”

    “Education which esteems a more valuable fortune than any could have given, will make me happy through my future life”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She recorded their corresponds and her agriculture experiments in a letter book, which is one of the most massive collections of personal writings of an American woman in the 18th-century. It was published in 1850 as ”The Journal and Letters of Eliza Lucas.”
    • She rejected two wealthy suitors before marrying the man she fell in love with, a thing that was unheard of at the time.
    • Her husband was South Carolina’s first native-born attorney.
    • Her eldest son, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, was a signatory of the United States Constitution.
    • President George Washington served as a pallbearer at her funeral.
    • In addition to her agriculture trials, she taught two female slaves to read and write and set up a school at the plantation.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books about her


    * The first woman to be inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Businesswoman, Inventor

    HIdden Histories: Eliza Pinckney

    A small, leather bound book celebrating the life of founding mother Eliza Pinckney was written by her great-granddaughter, Harriott Horry, and an inscription inside links to another well-known Lowcountry family, the Hazards.

    Undercover by Kraftamt (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/Karstenholymoly/40639

    Between Worlds (Instrumental) by Aussens@iter (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/tobias_weber/56664 Ft: (Smiling Cynic)

  • Photo credit - National Park Service

  • Citations and Additional References:
    Wikipedia page.
    History of American Women website.