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Imagining The Widow Abigail


If women are often considered missing from history, how do we find them? Sometimes by accident. Recently, I was researching city gardens in 18th century British North America. I was particularly interested in gardens kept in Maryland. Imagine my delight when I discovered William Faris and his garden journal.





Here's the little bit I could find about Abigail Faris.


She was married to William Faris, Sr. because of course I found an interesting woman through the men in her life. William was a clockmaker in London and apparently pretty good at it. He also was pretty good at getting into religious trouble and died in prison over his Quaker beliefs.


Abigail seems to have been awfully courageous. She gathered up her newborn baby (William, the future gardener and journal-keeper) and several of the clocks her husband made and took off for America. She arrived in Philadelphia in the spring of 1729.


And that's basically all I could find out except that she was involved in some reasonably big real estate transactions with her son before he became of age. She must have been fairly well-known in Philadelphia because she ended up with the moniker The Widow Abigail.


What?! That's it?!


Just little glimpses of the Widow Abigail, but wow is she intriguing. Courageous enough to cross an ocean, with a baby. Savvy enough to become a property owner. Scrappy enough to raise a successful son. Notorious enough to have a public nickname. If only I had found her journal instead of her son's.


One of the fun parts about creative writing, and historical fiction specifically, is that we can use it to imagine what people were like and what they did, even if we don't have an actual record of it. So, for fun, I played around with The Widow Abigail. You can check out the short piece here.


Whoever she was, I can't help but think she may have been a pretty compelling woman.


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