NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #9: Elizabeth Willing Powel

Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #9: Elizabeth Willing Powel

Scientists. Activists. Lawyers. Artists. The first computer programmers.

The history books may have neglected some of the incredible Philly women who changed the world over the last 200-plus years—but we have not.

While it shouldn’t take a national observance to put women on our radar, this is one holiday we’re happy to play along with: Every weekday during Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a local woman whose legacy deserves celebrating—and who continues to inspire us.

Find the full list below—and also check out the incredible women we included in our Black History Month All-Stars roundup—like Marian Anderson, Sadie Alexander and Caroline Still Anderson.

09

Elizabeth Willing Powel

Socialite / American founder

Elizabeth Willing Powel

Socialite / American founder

1743-1830

Ever wondered why America’s Head of State is called a president? Philadelphia socialite Elizabeth Powel is to thank.

As the wife of the wealthy and prominent Philadelphian Samuel Powel, Elizabeth hosted parties modeled after French salons that were attended by many of America’s founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and John Adams.

Powel played a critical role in shaping the tone and content of the political conversations that took place inside her Society Hill home (which you can tour in non-pandemic times). Through these dinners, Mrs. Powel and George Washington became close friends and Washington agreed to run for a second term as president at her urging.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • Hosted parties for Philadelphia society
  • Advised George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers
  • Managed her husband’s estate upon his death from Yellow Fever


FINAL WORDS
: “When in society she will animate and give a brilliancy to the whole Conversation, and the uncommon command she has of Language and her ideas flow with rapidity,” Powel’s sister, Ann Willing Francis, wrote of Elizabeth.


RELATED READING

Willing Powel painting by Matthew Pratt / Wikimedia Commons

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story