Elizabeth Willing Powel
Elizabeth Willing Powel was the daughter and later wife of mayors of Philadelphia. She wrote extensively, but privately, on a wide range of subjects, including politics, the role of women, medicine, education, and philosophy. Powel corresponded widely, including with the political elite of the time.
About Elizabeth Willing Powel in brief
Elizabeth Willing Powel (February 21, 1743 – January 17, 1830) was an American socialite and a prominent member of the Philadelphia upper class of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The daughter and later wife of mayors of Philadelphia, she was a salonnière who hosted frequent gatherings that became a staple of political life in the city. Powel corresponded widely, including with the political elite of the time. She was a close friend and confidant to George Washington and was among those who convinced him to continue for a second term as president. She wrote extensively, but privately, on a wide range of subjects, including politics, the role of women, medicine, education, and philosophy. She died in 1830, and was buried beside her husband at Christ Church in Philadelphia. She built a home for her nephew and chosen heir, John Hare Powel, on the country estate which she inherited from her husband. The Powel House was renovated and opened to the public as a museum in 1938. Two rooms from the house were reconstructed as exhibits at museums in Philadelphia and New York City. The Powels’ country estate later became part of Powelton Village in Philadelphia, which is now part of the City of Brotherly Love. The family was wealthy enough to afford private tutoring, and the content of Elizabeth’s writing indicates a quality education. Elizabeth had five elder siblings, Thomas, Ann, Dorothy, Charles, and Mary, and five younger siblings, Richard, Abigail, Joseph, James, and Margaret.
Her husband Samuel Powel was one of the richest people in Philadelphia who was twice elected mayor of the city in 1748 and 1754. He died in 1793, and left almost his entire estate to Powel,. who went on to manage the family business dealings. Her son, Samuel Powell, also named Samuel, was among the first settlers of the Pennsylvania Province of Pennsylvania and named after his father’s father, a Quaker merchant. He had inherited the fortune of his grandfather, who had found success as a merchant and named him Samuel Powell. He married Ann McCall in 1763; at 18 years old, he had inherited a fortune of $1,000,000. His son, Thomas inherited the family home after their father’s death in 1754, a year after Margaret was born. Thomas was married to Walter Stirling in 1753, Mary to William Byrd III in 1761, and Ann to Tench Francis Jr. in 1762. Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, denied any such relationship in private letters to her sister Mary, assuring her that she would have been the first to know of such a connection, having found it only after having found her husband’s success. Her brother, Richard was married in 1747, and he was also named and named Samuel Powell; at age 18 yearsold, he inherited thefortune of his father, and found himself among the richest settlers of Pennsylvania. He was elected as mayor of Philadelphia in 1749.