Tracking women in early America can prove difficult due to name changes and lack of legal status. When women are finally found in records, they are often stripped of their own names and identified by their husband’s name or a nickname. Even so, there are some wonderful examples of women leading rich, full lives despite their often conspicuous absence.
One such example is contained within the probate file for Ellen Hardin, dated 1826. Ellen resided in Lawrence County at the time of her death, which appears to have been caused by a sickness. The inventory for Ellen’s estate is massive! She had a large home with several rooms’ worth of furniture, a well-stocked kitchen, a nice dining set, several sets of clothes, and some luxury goods like a handheld mirror and brush.
It’s notable that all of this property is described as belonging to Ellen, herself. Few other women in the area owned anything. Perhaps because the Hardin family was prominent and well-known in the community, Ellen was able to have some degree of independence.
A piece of Ellen Hardin’s probate has been digitized and soon will be available online through the Territorial Arkansas Digital Collection: http://ahc.digital-ar.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16790coll6. To view the complete file, please stop by NEARA. We’ll be happy to help you track down the often elusive women in history!