Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
In 1674, at the conclusion of the Third Dutch War, the Treaty of Westminster placed the Dutch New Netherlands permanently under English control. For the many businesswomen of Dutch heritage who resided in the New Netherlands during the late seventeenth century, this shift in colonial power resulted in a drastic loss of economic freedom and, in many cases, brought an end to their public business ventures. As Dutch businesswomen increasingly retreated from the public sphere, their need to document daily activities dwindled and records of their personal lives all but disappeared. A study of the correspondence of Alida Schuyler Livingston of New York, a member of the Schuyler family by birth and the Van Rensselaer and Livingston families by marriage, illuminates the life of an elite Dutch businesswoman during this transitional phase.;Alida's husband, Robert Livingston, is recognized historically for his political and mercantile ventures. However, it was his wife who managed the couple's vast resources, including 160,000 acres of manorial land, a bakery, brewery, gristmill and sawmill. The Livingstons' agreement to settle -- and victual -- Palatine refugees at Livingston Manor during the early eighteenth century resulted in disastrous financial consequences for the Livingstons and deplorable conditions for the Palatines. Alida's administration of the manor's industries bolstered the family's finances and permitted them to continue to trade during the worst economic experience of their marriage.;Alida Schuyler Livingston did not own land independently, write a joint will with her spouse or operate a business in her own name. However, her letters reveal that she managed and sold slaves, independently negotiated the price of wheat, supervised millers, bakers and brewers and conducted trade with local Indians during her lengthy marriage -- as her husband's equal partner. Viewed through the lens of the twenty-first century, it is tempting to pity Alida's years of hard work that resulted in a business empire attributed to her husband. In reality, Alida Livingston did what her mother and ancestors before her had done -- labored to provide financial security for her family, but under the constraints of English common law. It is through a study of her daily activities and relationships -- with her husband, children, tradesmen, slaves and employees -- that the extent of Alida Livingston's contribution to the Livingston family legacy is revealed.
Mohler, Melinda M., "A Dutch Woman in an English World: The Legacy of Alida Livingston of New York" (2011). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 4755.