Eliza Lucas Pinckney
At 16 years old, Eliza Lucas Pinckney unintentionally became a businesswoman. After the death of her mother, Eliza ran her family’s three South Carolina plantations and cared for her younger siblings while her father, a British military officer, was stationed in the Caribbean.
Eliza’s love for botany and her keen awareness of growing trends in the textile industry led her to experimentally plant indigo seeds that her father had sent from Antiqua. Failure struck twice before Eliza managed to raise a crop that produced 17 pounds of indigo, which eventually was exported to England. The crop’s success helped boost her business and South Carolina’s economy. Because of Eliza’s business prowess, indigo became the second-largest crop in the state — South Carolina exported 134,000 pounds of indigo in 1748 — until the rise of cotton.
In 1744, Eliza married politician Charles Pinckney. The couple had three sons and one daughter. Eliza raised her family, kept her agricultural business and even found time to spy for the Colonial army during the Revolutionary War. Remembering her contributions to her country, President George Washington asked to be a pallbearer at Eliza’s funeral.