18th Century Leaders

Eliza Lucas Pinckney

Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793) was born in Antiqua, West Indies and educated in England. An a skilled agriculturalist, she made indigo a commercially successful plant in the American colonies.

In England, she received the traditional training in the domestic arts, but her greatest interest was in botany. While she was a young child, the family moved to Charleston, S.C., where her mother died shortly thereafter. Her father, a military officer, was reassigned to the Caribbean. He left Eliza, the oldest of four children and then 16, in charge of her siblings and the Wappo plantation.

Beginning in 1739 Eliza Lucas began experimenting with different strains of indigo until she improved the quality of indigo that was produced. She proved that indigo could successfully be grown in South Carolina as a commercial crop, and it became second only to rice in sales and profits. By 1748 the production and sale of indigo had almost tripled because of her influence. When she was 22, Lucas married Charles Pinckney, former speaker of the Commons House of Assembly. They had four children, one of whom, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, signed the U.S. Constitution, as did his cousin, also named Charles Pinckney. When Eliza Pinckney died in Philadelphia, President George Washington was one of her pallbearers.