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Philipse, Margaret Hardenbrook (d. 1690)

Philipse, Margaret Hardenbrook (d. 1690)

Colonial merchant and shipowner. Born in Elberfeld, in the Rhine Valley, Prussia; died around 1690; daughter of Adolph Hardenbrook (also seen as Hardenbroeck); married Peter Rudolphus (de Vries), on October 10, 1659 (died 1661); married Frederick Philipse (businessman and later a politician), in October 1662; children: (first marriage) Maria (later adopted by Frederick Philipse and renamed Eve); (second marriage) daughter Annetje; three sons, Philip, Adolph, and Rombout.

Margaret Philipse, who was quite possibly the first female business agent in the colonies, was born in the Rhine Valley, the daughter of Adolph Hardenbrook (or Hardenbroeck). Few facts about her early life survive, but it is believed that she accompanied her brother Abel to the Dutch colony of New Netherland (now part of New York State), in 1659. That same year, she married Peter Rudolphus (de Vries), a respected merchant trader from New Amsterdam (New York City). The couple had a daughter Maria in 1660.

Philipse began working in 1660, serving as a business agent for Dutch merchants trading with New Netherland. By some accounts, she became a shipowner at this time as well. (Dutch laws were more liberal than most at the time, allowing married women to conduct their own businesses.) Following her husband's death in 1661, Philipse took over his business as a merchant and trader, shipping furs to Holland in exchange for Dutch goods which she sold in New Amsterdam. Records of the time indicate that she was also involved in a number of lawsuits involving her husband's past business pursuits, which may or may not have precipitated her marriage in 1662 to Frederick Philipse, a carpenter turned merchant. Frederick later adopted her daughter, and the couple also had four children of their own: daughter Annetje and sons Philip, Adolph, and Rombout.

Although Frederick grew quite prosperous, Philipse continued to run her own enterprise, frequently traveling between Holland and New Amsterdam in a ship called the Charles. Around 1679, two missionaries, Jaspar Danckaerts and Peter Sluyter, made a crossing on the vessel from Amsterdam to New York. They refer in their journal to Philipse's "unblushing avarice" and "excessive covetousness," and record that on one occasion she demanded that the crew search for a mop that had gone overboard; "we, with all the rest, must work fruitlessly for an hour or an hour and a half," they wrote, "and all that merely to satisfy and please the miserable covetousness of Margaret." Philipse seems to have retired soon after that voyage and died about ten years later, around 1690.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Read, Phyllis J., and Bernard L. Witlieb. The Book of Women's Firsts. NY: Random House, 1992.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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