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Children at Work

The indenture contract of nine-year-old Elizabeth Fortune reveals the opportunities available to young free black women in colonial New York.



Coverture is a legal principal that dates back to the Middle Ages and comes from a French term meaning “covered.” Imported to the American colonies as part of English common law, coverture had a significant impact on women’s lives.


Professional Portraitist

Two works by artist Henrietta Johnston, the first professional female portraitist in the English colonies, illustrate the fashions and values of the eighteenth-century colonies.


The Rapalje Children

This portrait of an affluent colonial family illustrates the different expectations of boys and girls in the eighteenth century.


Fashionable Rebellion

This portrait shows how free Black women in Spanish Louisiana turned an oppressive law into a celebration of individuality and culture.


Settling Russian Alaska

This letter demonstrates that Russian colonial efforts relied on intermarriage between Russian traders and Native women.