The 19th-century women buried in the New York Marble Cemetery had the same intelligence and drive as women today. Complex household management, constant child-bearing, limited formal education, and societal expectations, however, prevented them from doing much outside the house. A few ran their husbands’ businesses when widows, but most had to be content with family and church activities. We know little about most of them. There is one wonderful exception: Mary Ann Delafield DuBois.
Even her start in life was a little unusual. Her American father, banker John Delafield, and English mother, Mary Roberts, were in London during the war of 1812. When she was born there in 1813, her patriotic father held the Stars and Stripes over the bed so that his daughter would always be able to say that she was born under the American flag.
Moving with her family to the US, she had a conventional upbringing in New York City and at the Litchfield Female Academy. On her 19th birthday she married attorney Cornelius DuBois, son of a grocery and tobacco wholesaler. Just a few years later, the Panic of 1837 struck and young Mrs. DuBois began to show her true colors. Seeing that the number of homeless was growing, she appealed to her father-in-law to house some of the men in his empty tobacco warehouses. She had her way.