Mirror of the Indies

The Dutch Vrouws,
page 7 of 9

Peter Collinson said she was the first lady to study the Linnæan system, and deserved to have her name celebrated; and John Ellis, writing of her to Linnæus in 1758, asks that a genus be named, for her, Coldenella. She was also a correspondent of Dr. Whyte of Edinburgh, and many learned societies in Europe. Walter Rutherfurd enumerates her talents, and caps them with a glowing tribute to her cheese-making.

We find the women of the times full of interest in public affairs and active in good works. In the later days of the province, we learn of the gifts to the army at Crown Point in 1755. In those days the generous farmers of Queens County, Long Island, collected one thousand and fifteen sheep, and these were “cheerfully given.”

“While their husbands at Great Neck were employed in getting sheep, the good mothers in that neighborhood in a few hours collected nearly seventy good large cheeses, and sent them to New York to be forwarded with the sheep to the army.” Kings County defrayed the expense of conveying these sheep and cheeses to the army; and a letter of gratitude was promptly returned by the commander-in-chief, Sir William Johnson, who said,—

“This generous humanity is unanimously and gratefully applauded here by all. We pray that your benevolence may be returned to you by the great Shepherd of the human kind a thousand fold. And may those amiable housewives to whose skill we owe the refreshing cheeses long continue to shine in their useful and endearing stations.”

Kings County and Suffolk also sent cheeses, and we learn also:—

“The Women of County Suffolk ever good in such Occasions are knitting several large bags of stockings and mittens to be sent to the poorer soldiers at Forts William Henry and Edward.”

In studying the history of the province, I am impressed with the debt New Yorkers of Dutch descent owe, not to their forefathers, but to their foremothers; the conspicuous decorum of life of these women and their great purity of morals were equalled by their good sense and their wonderful capacity in both domestic and public affairs. They were as good patriots as they were good business women; and though they were none of them what Carlyle calls “writing-women,” it was not from poverty of good sense or natural intelligence, but simply from the imperfection of their education through lack of good and plentiful schools, and also want of stimulus owing to absence of literary atmosphere.


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