Eliza Lucas Pinckney

Born: 1722
Birthplace: Antigua

Daughter of a British army officer, Eliza Lucas grew up on the Caribbean island of Antigua but attended finishing school in London. She studied French and music, but her favorite subject was botany. Her family moved to South Carolina when she was still a child, and her mother died soon after. When Eliza was 16, her father had to return to the West Indies, and she assumed the management of his three plantations.

Eliza was soon making high-quality blue indigo dye that was in great demand in England. She encouraged other planters to follow suit and created a new industry. Within two years indigo ranked second only to rice as a South Carolina export crop. Eliza also began producing flax, hemp, silk, and figs. When she was 22, she married Charles Pinckney, a judge who traveled frequently, leaving Eliza to run his plantations. In five years the couple had four children, whom Eliza educated.

After her husband's death in 1758, Eliza continued to manage his properties. Although the British destroyed the Pickney plantations during the Revolutionary War, the family continued its prominence. Eliza's sons, Charles Cotesworth and Thomas, were both American generals during the war. Charles was a signer of the U.S. Constitution. After the war, he experimented with another new crop, cotton, which would become profitable across the South. Thomas was U.S. minister to Spain and Great Britain.

In 1793 Eliza died in Philadelphia, where she had gone for medical treatment. George Washington was a pallbearer at her funeral. The writing she had done during her lifetime was published in 1850 as The Journal and Letters of Eliza Lucas. In 1989 Eliza was the first woman inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame.

Died: 1793
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