Women’s Equality Day

Ninety years ago today (August 26, 1920), Secretary Bainbridge Colby signed the 19th Amendment into law. After generations of struggle, voting rights were extended to women. In honor of this anniversary, we decided to highlight a few of the remarkable Lee women. Compared to their famous brothers, fathers, and husbands, we know little of the Lee women.

Much like her husband Thomas Lee, Hannah Ludwell Lee was known for her strong personality. Before moving to The Clifts, Thomas and Hannah lived at Machodoc. In January 1720, thieves broke into their home and set fire to the plantation. Thomas, Hannah, and their children escaped the flames by jumping from an upper window. Hannah, pregnant with their fourth child, miscarried. Thomas and Hannah eventually recovered their financial losses, beginning construction on Stratford Hall in 1738.

We do not know the architect of Stratford Hall, but Thomas and Hannah’s eldest son provided a hint when he mentioned that he regretted Hannah’s taste had been followed in the design.

Alice Lee was a young teenager when her parents died. Giving up hope of receiving her inheritance from her father’s estate, in 1760 she went to England where she met and married William Shippen, Jr. of Philadelphia. During the meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, she and her husband entertained her brothers and other important revolutionary figures, such as the Adamses. Alice Lee Shippen actively collected money in Philadelphia to support the American troops and accompanied her husband (appointed Director General of Hospitals in April 1777) at several encampments of Washington’s army. These encampments included Middlebrook, NJ, Reading, PA, and Valley Forge, PA.

Alice’s sister also expressed views that were not typical of the time. Hannah Lee married Gawen Corbin II of Pecatone Plantation. When Gawen died in 1759, his will stated that Hannah would forfeit the estate if she remarried. Rather than lose the property, Hannah entered a common law marriage with Dr. Richard Lingan. Dr. Lingan moved into Pecatone and there they raised their two children.

In 1778, Hannah Lee Corbin wrote her brother Richard Henry to advocate for voting rights for women landowners. Richard Henry’s response (dated March 17, 1778): “Perhaps ’twas thought rather out of character for Women to press into those tumultuous Assemblies of Men where the business of choosing Representatives is conducted.”