Grace Growden Galloway

Grace Growden Galloway was born in 1727 to an affluent family. Her father, Lawrence Growden, served as a member of the Assembly, a Provincial Councilor, and a Chief Justice, such that he, among only eight other colonists, had accumulated enough wealth to purchase a stagecoach. Grace’s husband, Joseph Galloway, was one of the most significant Loyalist politicians in Pennsylvania, serving as speaker of the Pennsylvania House. As a result of her upbringing and marriage, Grace lived comfortably until the American Revolution, when her husband’s politics began to endanger her. In 1774, rebel Patriots pressured Joseph to renounce his loyalty to Great Britain, but he refused and sailed to London in 1778. He not only estranged himself and their daughter Betsay from Grace, but also burdened Grace with the responsibility of protecting their property 

Grace’s diary entries, which she wrote in her middle age, detail her life from 1778 to 1779. She describes the day that the Patriots confiscated the Galloways’ property, including their carriage, and evicted Grace from their house. Though eviction implies passivity, Grace was anything but passive. She sought legal advice from George Bryan, Vice President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, and remained in her home until Patriots forcibly removed her. Though Grace had to rent rooms for the rest of her life, her diary demonstrates her resolve and independence in the wake of her husband’s departure. Her diary provides insight into the legal rights of women in early America, the obstacles Loyalist women navigated in the absence of their husbands, and her own interiority.

What follows is a letter written to Grace Growden Galloway from George Bryan explaining to her the legal status of women whose husbands have left them behind to guard the family estate.


Philadelphia, 3d Augt, 1778.

I have not been inattentive to your discourse, which you honored me with some days since at your house; business has prevented this answer being earlier made. When a lady marries, (unless by a special reserve of her lands in the hands of Trustees, made before the contract,) the use and profits of the real estate belonging to her rests in her husband for and during their joint lives, and if children be born then for his life. This estate, so acquired by wedlock, the gentleman can sell. It may be seised by creditors and applied to their relief; And it may be lost by attaint, and then it devolves to the publick as a forfeiture. But the moment the husband dies it returns to the widow, or if she be deceased to her children or other heirs. This, the Gentlemen of the law, say is the case, as well here as in England. However, they remark that corruption of blood, which in Europe destroys the heretable capacity of the children, and gives a fathers lands to the State, even where he is only tenant for life, is abolished in Pennsylvania; and further, that in every case of attaint for treason, support for the wife and children shall be awarded by the Judges of the Supreme Court, out of the estate of the husband. What may be thought proper in your case I profess myself very ignorant, yet it is probable it will be most convenient for you and the publick too, that such allowance be made out of the paternal estate, lost by you, for the uncertain term of Mr. Galloways natural life.
No one can more regret the occasion of this communication, yet believe me to be,
Your most obedient Servant,
To Mrs. Galloway Signed, GEORGE BRYAN. (p. 45)

[This diary entry describes the day that the Patriots confiscated Joseph Galloway’s property.]

Thursday ye 20th 

Mrs Erwin & Sidney Howell & Peggy Johns came in ye morn: but cou’d get No man to bear evidence[.] Lewise sent me word that I must shut my doors & windows & if they [the Patriots] wou’d come to let them Make a forcible Entry[.] Accordingly I did so & a little after 10 oclock they Knocked Violently at the door three times[.] the Third time I sent Nurse & call’d out myself to tell them I was in possession of my own House & wou’d keep so & that they shou’d gain No admittance Hereupon which they went round in ye yard & Try’d every door but cou’d None Open[.] then they went to the Kitchen door & with a scrubbing brush which they broke to pieces they forced that open [-] we Women standing in ye Entry in ye Dark they made repeated strokes at ye door & I think was 8 or 10 Minuets before they got it open when they came in I had ye windows open’d they look’d very Mad[.] their [sic] was Peel[,] smith[,] ye Hatter [,] & a Col Will[,] a pewterer in second street[.] I spoke first & told them I was Used ill: & show’d them the Opinion of ye Lawyers Peel read it: but they all despised it & peel said he had stud[i]ed ye Law & knew they did right I told them Nothing but force shou’d get me out of My house Smith said they knew how to Manage that & that they wou’d throw my cloaths in ye street: & told Me that Mrs Sympson & forty othere ware put out of ye lines in one day… (p. 51)

[This diary entry describes a conversation Grace Growden Galloway had with her neighbors, the Turners.]

Tuesday ye 20th 

Went to billy Turners[.] the two Mrs Bonds there[.] ye Widdow & I very sociable but Mrs Bond rather shy but did not Mind her but got My spirits at command & Laughed at ye whole wig party[.] I told them I was ye happyest woman in twown [town] for I had been strip [p]ed & Turn’d out of Doors yet I was still Ve 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 ye 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 ye 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 I wou’d Never let these people pull Me down for While I had ye splindid shilling left I wou’d be happy in spight of them; [illegible] I cou’d Not do as Diogenes [1] (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 tho Madam bond seem’d sometimes to wince I went as far as O Jones with them billy Turner came home with Me I continued in good spirits all Ve even supped by Myself Debby sat a little with Me am not sorry at anything I said for I now defye ye Villa[i]ns… (pp. 75-76)

Discussion Questions

    1. What do these primary sources tell you about the legal status of married, Loyalist women during the American Revolution? 
    2. How does Grace Growden Galloway construct her own identity in her writings?[2] What are her values? Considering the legal status of married, loyalist women, do her writings deviate from or ascribe to expectations for women during this era?
    3. What is the greater social and economic significance of a Loyalist, aristocratic family losing their wealth and claims to property during the American Revolution? [3]


Chopra, Ruma. “Loyalist Women in British New York City, 1776–1783.” In Women in Early America, edited by Foster Thomas A., by Berkin Carol and Morgan Jennifer L., 215. New York; London: NYU Press, 2015. Accessed April 17, 2021.

Galloway, Grace Growden, and Raymond C. Werner. “Diary of Grace Growden Galloway.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 55, no. 1 (1931): 32-94. Accessed April 17, 2021.

Krueger, Derek. “Diogenes the Cynic among the Fourth Century Fathers.” Vigiliae Christianae 47, no. 1 (1993): 29. Accessed April 17, 2021. doi:10.2307/1584339.

Tillman, Kacy Dowd. “Women Left Behind: Female Loyalism, Coverture, and Grace Growden Galloway’s Empire of Self.” Women’s Narratives of the Early Americas and the Formation of Empire. (2016): 152. 10.1057/9781137543233_10.

Werner, Raymond C. “Diary of Grace Growden Galloway: Introduction.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 55, no. 1 (1931): 32-34. Accessed April 17, 2021.


[1] Diogenes was an ancient Greek philosopher who practiced a simplistic lifestyle to illustrate his virtue. He threw away his cup, one of his few belongings, after witnessing a boy drink from his hands at a brook (Krueger 29).

[2] Question inspired by Tillman, who writes that the year 1778 “marks Grace’s entry into a lengthy discussion about the construction of the eighteenth-century political female, most notably in the absence of a still-living husband” (152).

[3] Question inspired by Werner, who prefaces Grace Growden Galloway’s diary by arguing that it indicates the social and economic upheaval of the American Revolution (34).