Friday, March 6, 2020

Presentation - Mrs. Mary Chew Paca - One of the Best of Women

     I had the honor to be asked to present again during the Winter Lecture series in Historic Annapolis. This time, we gave a presentation about Mary Chew Paca on 29 February.

     As with many women from that time period, there is not a lot written down, left, or found about them.  In Mary's case, it is the same; however, I decided to delve into her family, friends, and acquaintances in order to "paint a portrait" of her and her life.  This is especially due to the fact that we do not have an actual portrait of her that either survived or that we know about right now.  That clever title came from Kerry McClure who assisted me with the presentation.  

 Henrietta Maria Lloyd Chew Dorsey by by John Wollaston circa 1750s

Margaret Chew Bordley 1752 by John Wollaston the Younger 
The Huntington Collection

     However, we do know of the existence of portraits of two of Mary's sisters by John Wollaston (above) which I would like to think that Mary had one painted as well.  Would she have had a different gown and color on?  Mary's mother, Henrietta Maria Lloyd Chew, married Daniel Dulany, Sr. after Samuel Chew (Mary's father) passed away when Mary was a baby.  Mary's mother was smart, and it was an extremely well made match.  She had already had a considerable fortune, he had a considerable fortune, and both had amazing family connections.  This brought the two together.  Another thing that I found out during my research was that Mary's father was also a descendant of John Chew, one of those who came into Jamestown in 1622, and there is a connection to the Cliveden Chew Family of Phildelphia.  She was also connected to Edward Lloyd below (Mary's mother was a Lloyd), and Edward was a second cousin.

Edward Lloyd with wife Elizabeth Tayloe and daughter Anne 1771

     During my presentation, I did not compare Mary to other women in the time period, as I feel that based upon the description in her obituary she was an amazing person in her own right, and well loved.  No reason to compare her.  She did grow up privileged, and was in the very highest of society in Annapolis and the colonies during the time.  

William Paca by Charles Willson Peale, 1772
(Mary was alive when this was painted, and they knew Peale - 
did he paint her as well?  That is what I want to know.)

     In my opinion, Mary was the reason that her husband, William Paca (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) was elevated in his law career and station in life.  She came to the marriage with a considerable dowry, amazing family connections, and thus was able to also build what is now the "Paca House and Gardens" in Annapolis, Maryland.  There was a lot of building in the town from 1765 onward of the most amazing large brick houses.  Mary also inherited, from her brother, half of the Wye Island Plantation and other land, which William Paca owned after her death in 1774.  She died shortly after giving birth to her son, William.

Mrs. Ogle, Mrs. Paca, and their servant Sarah

     With this presentation, we added a living history aspect with Mary (Gema Gonzalez) and Ann Tasker Ogle (Kerry McClure) to the mix talking about things in town and the latest gossip.  We also had two servants to help.  I provided  background information on Mary's life in Annapolis, the city she knew, the things going on based upon the articles in the Maryland Gazette.  I know that I have only scratched the surface of her life.

The hair has been started!

Gema (Mary) sitting having her hair done by Eliza (her lady's maid)

     We then added an element of Mary getting ready for an evening Ball, so she had her maid prepare her hair and make-up and then dress her.  Mrs. Ogle left to change for the Ball, and returned waiting for Mrs. Paca to finish dressing.  Eliza Vincz Lichack and Robin Marchionni were the servants of the day, and did an amazing job.  We believe, but are not certain, that Mary would have had an enslaved person tending to her.  That person may have come from her mother's estate when she passed away (1766), and/or came with Mary when she married William to her new household.  It probably would have been someone she grew up with, knew, and trusted.  We just do not know.

Hair is finished!

Dressing for the Ball (Eliza, Gema, and Robin)

Final details and Kerry returned waiting to leave for the Ball

Ready for the ball!

     When doing presentations like this, I had to delve into Mary's genealogy and we focused on 1772.  Reading the Maryland Gazette also allowed me to know the things going on in town, in the colonies, etc.

     Erik Lichack was also there with us, providing support.

Erik, Eliza, and me
As always, the site provides snacks and something to drink for the visitors

The assembled cast

Pure shenanigans!  Mary is ready for the ball and her servants are happy because she was one of the best of women.