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James Waller to Elizabeth Smith, 3 February 1770 (Includes letter from Bridgen). James Murray Robbins Papers. Courtesy Massachusetts Historical Society. Page 1

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James Waller to Elizabeth Smith, 3 February 1770

After Elizabeth Murray's second husband, James Smith, died in August 1769, the new widow began to make plans to leave America and to go visit relatives in England and Scotland. She sailed in the fall of 1769, and soon after her arrival went to see her brother, John Murray, a physician in Norwich, England.

When Elizabeth met her brother John's large family--he had ten children--she became concerned about the education and economic well-being of her nieces.  She proposed sending John’s oldest daughter, Mary, whom the family called Polly, to Boston to keep shop, as she herself had done in the 1750s. Before setting her young niece on this course, however, Elizabeth sought the advice of merchants Edward Bridgen and James Waller, partners in the firm of Bridgen and Waller, who had supplied her with goods in the 1750s.  This letter conveys James Waller’s counsel, in particular his views on women and shopkeeping.

For more on commerce and gender, see Patricia Cleary, "Making Men and Women in the 1770s: Culture, Class, and Commerce in the Anglo-American World," in Laura McCall and Donald Yacovone, eds., A Shared Experience: Men, Women, and the History of Gender (New York University Press, 1998), 98-116.

seealsoFor more of their advice, see also Elizabeth (Murray) Smith to James Murray, 26 February 1770, and Edward Bridgen and James Waller to Elizabeth (Murray) Smith, 15 March 1770.