With her new novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott brings to life the story of Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza. Readers will discover a novel of rich and fascinating details—and at its heart, an admirable woman of great devotion and courage.
If you visit the grave of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854) in New York City, you’ll see that her simple stone describes her only in terms of the two most important men in her life. She’s her father’s daughter, and her husband’s wife, and that is all.
True, she’s best remembered today as the wife of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), a Revolutionary War hero, statesman, politician and abolitionist, the first Secretary of the Treasury, a signer of the Constitution, the founder of the American financial system and, perhaps most famously, the only Founding Father to die from a duel.
You might also have heard that Eliza’s husband inspired a certain award-winning Broadway musical that carries his name.
But like so many women of the past, Eliza’s own story has been overshadowed by that brilliant husband. She didn’t help her place in posterity by destroying (or permitting to be destroyed) most of her letters, and thereby virtually eliminating her own words from history. As a result, she’s too often been dismissed by historians, who variously describe her as shy and reclusive, a saint, a homebody and even a victim.
With my new historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, I’m determined to change that. I hunted for the “real” Eliza at the Schuyler Mansion, her family’s home in Albany, New York, and the Grange, the house she and Alexander built in New York City, and visited other places in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that she would have known. I searched for clues to her in historical societies, libraries and museums, poring over the fading ink of 18th-century letters. I was even fortunate enough to see—and touch—the gold wedding ring that Alexander slipped on her finger when they married in 1780.
And I found Eliza, too, in the letters of others who knew and loved her, in portraits, in memoirs and in her charitable work. She was the mother of eight children, who recalled her perseverance and devotion through the most difficult of times. She was a trusted, affectionate daughter and sister in the large Schuyler family. A list of her acquaintances reads like a who’s-who of early American history, including Martha and George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, Dolley and James Madison—and those are only a few of those who knew her.
Most poignantly, Eliza’s presence remains in the letters that Alexander wrote to her over the 24 years that covered their courtship and marriage. There’s no doubt that they loved one another dearly, and that that love supported Eliza not only throughout Alexander’s life, but in the long years afterwards.
As a widow (she survived her husband by more than 50 years), Eliza continued a lifetime of kindness and generosity to become an advocate for the poor women and children of New York City. She helped found an orphanage whose mission continues to this day in the social service organization Graham Windham, and she served as the institution’s directress until she was 91.
But all that is only the beginning of what I discovered. Eliza Hamilton was intelligent and resourceful and strong, a woman who lived in the thick of some of the most turbulent and exciting times in American history. Her life and marriage were filled with love, passion, regard and devotion, but also were marred by public scandal and unimaginable tragedies that broke her heart, but not her spirit. I’m honored to tell her story.
Scott is the bestselling author of over 50 historical novels and historical romances. Learn more about her book—and Eliza Hamilton—on her website and blog: www.susanhollowayscott.com
Author photo by David Campli Studio