My name is Samantha Snyder. I am a historian of early American women and the Research Librarian at George Washington's Mount Vernon.
My current project is a biography is a of Elizabeth Willing Powel, a woman who lived in Philadelphia from 1743-1830 during its time as the center of the United States government, as well as the cultural, financial, and social epicenter of the American Atlantic World. Without the power of her pen, words, and mind, the structure of the United States government as we know it today may not exist.
Powel was the largest female property holder in Philadelphia and built a real-estate empire. She donated hundreds of dollars to organizations that promoted abolitionism, women’s rights, children’s education, the arts, and industrial improvement.
She was a political confidante to George Washington and advised his and successive administrations, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. She was close friends with both Abigail Adams and Martha Washington. Powel defied economic, political and social stereotypes of the lives of women in the period. Her story compels audiences to recalculate their perceptions of women’s power and influence in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.