“I now defye the Villans”

During the Revolution, property belonging to Loyalists was subject to seizure. Very often some part of that property had belonged to their wives. But under English law, any property a woman owned at the time of her marriage became her husband’s, unless there had been a premarital agreement. As a result, many Loyalist wives had no legal claim to their inheritance; they found themselves in dire circumstances, evicted from their homes and forced to seek refuge with relatives or friends.

Grace Growden was one such woman. The daughter of a wealthy Quaker businessman, she had married Joseph Galloway who was active in Pennsylvania politics. Though initially uncommitted, he ultimately sided with the British becoming the civil administrator in Philadelphia when the British occupied that city. He left with the British when they evacuated in 1778, taking his daughter Betsy with him.

These lines from a poem Grace wrote show that she was not exactly happy in her marriage. “Never get tyed to a man/for when once you are yoked/’Tis all a mere joke/of seeing your freedom again.” Grace stayed behind in the hope that she could retain her inherited property. She was not successful. The day after the British departed Charles Willson Peale (yes, the painter) appeared at her door with an eviction notice. The contents of the Galloway house on Market Street were sold at auction (see illustration). Peale received a five percent commission. Embittered and impoverished, her diary entry in April 1779 showed Grace nevertheless still defiant.

Tusday the 20th [While visiting a neighbor, I] got My spirits at command & Laughed at the whole wig party. I told them I was the happyest woman in twown for I had been striped & Turn’d out of Doors yet I was still the same & must be Joseph Galloways Wife & Lawrence Growdons daughter & that it was Not in their power to humble Me for I shou’d be Grace Growdon Galloway to the last & as I had now suffer’d all that they can inflict Upon Me I shou’d now act as on a rock to look on the wrack of others & see them tost by the Tempestuous billows while I was safe ashore; that if My little fortune wou’d be of service to them, they May keep it for I had exchanged it for content: that a Wooden waiter was as Useful tho not so sightly as a silver one; & that wou’d Never let these people pull Me down for, While I had the splindid shilling left, I wou’d be happy in spight of them; I cou’d Not do as Diogenes (Drink out of the first brook therefore threw his cup away as Useless) but I wou’d keep My Wooden cup if I cou’d get No other; & be happy to the last if I cou’d not get a silk gown I cou’d get a Linsay one & so it kept Me warm I owed Not. My borrowed bed I told them was down & I cou’d Lay Me down & sleep composely on it without feeling one thorn which was More than the Creatures cou’d Do who had rob’d Me: but all that vext Me was that I shou’d be so far humbled as to be ranked as a fellow creature with such brutes for I cou’d not think they cou’d be call’d Men, so I ran on & was happy. . . . am not sorry at anything I said for I now defye the Villans.

It was ruled that Grace’s inheritance could not revert to her until her husband died. He outlived her, but their daughter Betsy claimed the property in 1802 after her father’s death.

The diary entry appears on page 126 of In the Words of Women. The inventory can be found HERE.

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