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Monday, August 12, 2019 - 3:15pm

Mercy student Danielle Juste ’20 has been awarded an extraordinary opportunity to conduct research on the prominent historical women who have helped shaped the Hudson Valley. This summer, she has been learning what life was like for women living in Westchester County before the American Revolution. Her research will become part of the library of the Women’s History Institute, an initiative of Historic Hudson Valley (HHV) designed to highlight the historical contributions made by women in the region.

The opportunity was made possible through a research fellowship with HHV, a nonprofit educational and historic preservation organization that runs tours and events at five properties in the lower Hudson Valley. Juste, a history major, has been working with centuries-old primary and secondary sources—the kind that require handling with gloves and special tools to preserve the fragile materials—to piece together the story of members of the Philipse family. Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and other historic landmarks near the Dobbs Ferry Campus, tell only a small part of the story of a Dutch family that prospered as shipping merchants before the American Revolution.

“Our aim is to shine a spotlight on the women of this region and to highlight their stories for culture seekers, student groups and researchers,” said Elizabeth Bradley, Vice President of Programs and Engagement for HHV. The Women’s History Institute, now in its third year, supports research fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students. “Our goal is to flesh out the rich stories of women in the Hudson Valley. We were especially interested in engaging young women to research and write women’s history,” Bradley continued. “We choose only two undergraduate fellows each year, so Danielle is in very select company.”

Juste’s focus is the life of Margaret Hardenbroeck DeVries Philipse, a Dutch settler who took over her husband’s shipping business after his death. “I’m researching the details such as the laws of that time, how women were regarded and what their daily life was like,” she explained. “Throughout Margaret’s lifetime, the New York colony's customs and laws changed as it transitioned from Dutch to English rule. Dutch traditions and laws were at times advantageous for women, but were altered in favor of English laws and customs. Some of these changes stripped women of many of the rights they’d previously held.”

Working closely with HHV librarian and research advisor Catalina Hannan, Juste has been learning the basics of historical research. Her tasks are to write for the HHV blog and to author a scholarly paper that will be incorporated into the body of research being collected. “Danielle has really thrown herself into the subject. We’ve all been impressed by her enthusiasm,” said Hannan. “Danielle displayed a passion for history in general, but she also took great interest in the history of the lands and buildings she passed every day on her commute to campus,” added Bradley.

Juste, who will graduate in 2020, said she has always been fascinated by history. “From about age eight, I read more historical works and biographies than children’s books,” she said. Mercy history assistant professor Maureen MacLeod, advisor to the history club, urged Juste and her fellow history majors to apply for a variety of internships and fellowships, including the opportunity with the Women’s History Institute. “I’ve really enjoyed learning about generations of the Philipse family, as well as the Revolutionary era in New York. I’m fascinated with discovering how Margaret and her descendants are intertwined with the early history of this country,” said Juste. “It’s been very rewarding. I’m so grateful to Professor MacLeod for her support and to Dr. Robert Murray [chair of the Humanities Department] for his recommendation.”

You can read Juste’s blog post about “she-merchant” Margaret Hardenbroeck DeVries Philipse on the Historic Hudson Valley website.

Hudson Valley Internship II