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Margaret Brent: Take all, pay all.

Photo:  Maryland State Archives

In answer to Cool Chicks from History’s Women’s History Month challenge, I would like to submit Margaret Brent, who is famous in St. Mary’s City for going before the colonial Governor and assembly and demanding not one vote, but two- one for herself, as a landowner, the other as Lord Baltimore’s attorney.  It being 1648, she was of course shot down.

Mistress Brent had, however, been taking names long before that.  Born into a family of means, she had the luxury (in a place where men outnumbered women) to never marry, owning her property, running her own business, and even representing herself in court.  She chose to stay in St. Mary’s City after a devastating raid by a Protestant seacaptain (St. Mary’s City was at this time a Catholic stronghold) that saw most of the settlers flee to Virginia.  Perhaps this was what caught the eye of Leonard Calvert, then Lord Baltimore, or maybe by this point Mistress Brent had become infamous.  Either way he named her executor of his will upon his death, famously instructing her to “take all, pay all”.

Which of course is what she did, even though she had to sell Lord Baltimore’s estate to pay and feed the soldiers.  Lord Baltimore, despite having told Mistress Brent to “take all”, was upset enough to result in the Brents leaving Maryland for Virginia where she would live until her death.  The Maryland assembly, however, disagreed with Lord Baltimore and told him so:

"we do Verily Believe and in Conscience report that it was better for the Colonies safety at that time in her hands then in any mans else in the whole Province after your Brothers death for the Soldiers would never have treated any other with the Civility and respect and through they were even ready at times to run into mutiny yet she still pacified them till at the last things were brought to that strait that she must be admitted and declared your Lordships Attorney…or else all must go to ruin again and then the second mischief had been doubtless far greater than the former. We conceive from that time she rather deserved favor and thanks from your Honor for her so much Concurring to the public safety then to be justly liable to all those bitter invectives you have been pleased to Express against her."

Source:  Maryland State Archives

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    Margaret Brent’s Wikipedia Article
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