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Women’s History Month

All-Star #9: Elizabeth Willing Powel

Women’s History Month

All-Star #9: Elizabeth Willing Powel

A governor. The world’s first computer programmers. Lawyers, doctors, writers, artists and activists. Philadelphia’s history is full of incredible, history-making women whose stories, unfortunately, are often all but missing from the history books.

It shouldn’t take a dedicated month—Women’s History Month—to recognize the contributions of these heroines. But in honor of the occasion, we scoured history to find several badass Philly women to celebrate for our Women’s History Month All-Stars.

RELATED: A cadre of visionary women are behind Guild House Hotel—a newly opened boutique hotel that celebrates the history residing in our buildings by giving props to the early feminists who initially occupied the property.

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

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