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Influential Women in a New Nation

At left, a portrait of Angelica Schuyler Church with son Philip and a servant; at right, history Ph.D. student Danielle Funiciello. 

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 18, 2018) — The wives of famous men in Colonial and early American times are often cited for their elegance and the family connections they brought their husbands. They also, however, had influence and objectives of their own.

A doctoral student in History, Danielle Funiciello, spent much of this summer detailing the lives of some of the most influential women of Colonial times, particular those who dwelled in the Hudson Valley. Her work was sustained by a Happy Rockefeller Summer Graduate Research Fellowship from the Women's History Institute at Historic Hudson Valley, where she used its archives to uncover many heretofore-untold stories.

Much of her work focused on Angelica Schuyler Church, the eldest daughter of American Revolution Major General Philip Schuyler, in order to discover broader truths about women of the period. “I am particularly interested in the way Church and her peers worked within and around ‘coverture laws,’ which limited women's economic, legal and political power by transferring these rights to their husbands,” said Funiciello.

“One of the ways Church did this was by building social networks with powerful people, especially men like Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette and others, over whom her influence would have granted her sway in political and legal venues that were otherwise inaccessible to women.”

In investigating Church's story, Funiciello found much about Church’s peers, such as those depicted in the musical Hamilton, Church’s connections to the author Washington Irving, and the lifestyles of Church’s children.

Funiciello also received a highly competitive short-term fellowship from the New York Public Library to work in their Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Collection, where she began and continues her dissertation research on Church and women's social networks in Revolutionary and early-nation America. Many of these networks involved the daughters of George Clinton, a New York governor and later U.S. vice president.

“I also found rich documentation of several women from the Bradstreet family and their legal struggle to obtain their inheritance from the estate of John Bradstreet, Philip Schuyler's military mentor who lived with the Schuyler family until his death when Angelica was about 9 years old.” Bradstreet's wife and daughters lived in England and so were denied their shares of his estate, but reclaimed their inheritance after a two-decade legal battle.

In July, Funiciello gave a public lecture at the State Library about the five Schuyler sisters and the lives of girls in 18th century Albany, in that month also presented some of her findings at the Schuyler Mansion "Book Bash," discussing the Schuyler women and the meeting of historic research and historic fiction.

“I myself do not write historical fiction but through my former work at the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site I have worked with a number of authors who do,” said the Saratoga Springs native. “I think that historic fiction books were the first thing to attract me to history when I was young because they captured the imagination in a way that academic history never could.

“I think it is very important for historians and authors of historical fiction to communicate with and learn from one another. By collaborating, we offer the best of both worlds — compelling stories that spark the imagination while helping readers understand the complex worlds of the past.”

Christopher Pastore, assistant professor of History and Funiciello’s advisor, said “when Ms. Funiciello entered our doctoral program she hit the ground running and since day one has been a careful, focused researcher. She’s been strategic in applying for grants and fellowships. She’s presenting her findings and earning accolades in the profession. And her success will just continue to open new opportunities for her.”

Funiciello intends to publish her work on Angelica Schuyler Church and then pursue a career in Public History. “I am not sure if I will continue in museums or work on special projects after graduation,” she said. ”It is important to me to write and work for public, rather than strictly academic, audiences.”

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