Anne Bingham's Life

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Anne Bingham, nee Anne Willing, was born in 1764 and lived most of her life in Philadelphia.

Considered to be the most beautiful woman of her day, she was a wealthy, well-connected socialite, the oldest child of Thomas Willing, a judge and merchant who became mayor of Philadelphia.

 

 

 

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As a 16-year-old, in 1780, Anne married William Bingham, a successful merchant who would become a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. William was 12 years older than young Anne, an age differential common in those days.

William and Anne Bingham pursued lives of wealth and influence. Both were highly educated, with Anne having studied English, foreign languages, music, and other subjects considered appropriate for urbane young ladies of her time. William owned substantial property, with large estates in Pennsylvania, Maine, and New York.

William Bingham was criticized for using his wife's beauty to help advance his career. William and Anne were both were criticized for their aristocratic and anglophilic leanings. In 1795 a mob attacked their mansion near Third and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, which was modeled after the Duke of Manchester's London residence. The mob was protesting the commercial concessions to the British in the Jay Treaty, an agreement with England negotiated by John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

 

 

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William and Anne Bingham traveled widely, among other places to Bermuda, where she's buried today, to London, where she met the man who would create the Draped Bust image, and to Paris, which she loved.

Writing to Anne Bingham from Paris in a letter dated February 7, 1787, Thomas Jefferson tried to persuade her that "the tranquil pleasures of America [were] preferable to the empty bustle of Paris." In Paris you're consumed with ennui, with no "object beyond the present moment," Jefferson wrote.

"In America, on the other hand, the society of your husband, the fond cares for the children, the arrangements of the house, the improvements of the grounds, fill every moment with a healthy and an useful activity. Every exertion is encouraging, because to present amusement, it joins the promise of some future good."

 

 

 

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Anne Bingham was no idle woman of leisure. She conducted social salons for leaders of the newly born United States and openly expressed her own views about matters of public interest. Though not as well known as Abigail Adams, she was one of the country's first feminists, believing that women in the U.S. should play an active role in politics, as did women at the time in France.

In a 1787 letter back to Thomas Jefferson, she wrote, "The Women of France interfere in the politics of the Country, and often give a decided Turn to the Fate of Empires...[T]hey have obtained that Rank of Consideration in society, which the Sex are intitled to...[Female Americans] are therefore bound in Gratitude to admire and revere them, for asserting our Privileges."

 

 

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Coin sites:
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Glomming: Coin Connoisseurship
Bogos: Counterfeit Coins
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© 2014 Reid Goldsborough

Note: Any of the items illustrated on these pages that are in my possession are stored off site.