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The Women Behind the Signers of the Declaration of Independence

Wives of the Signers of the United States (US) Declaration of Independence
From left: Deborah Read, Abigail Adams, Sarah Armitage Mckean.

Delegates from all of the colonies were present in Philadelphia for the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 56 men in all left their homes, businesses and families to make the case for the country. Here are the stories of the woman who supported them through it all.


Samuel Huntington

Married Martha Devotion (1738-1784) in 1761, daughter of Ebenezer Devotion, the representative of Windham, Connecticut. They had no children together, but when Samuel's brother, Joseph, died they adopted their nephew and niece, raising them as their own. Martha died in 1784.

Roger Sherman

Married Elizabeth Hartwell in 1749. Together they had seven children. She died in 1760.

Sherman married again to Rebecca Minot Prescott (1742-1813) on May 12, 1763. Together they had eight more children. Rebecca was friends with Betsy Ross, who let her sew three of the stars on the original United States flag. Because of her success in this role, Rebecca was picked to create the first flag of Connecticut. She was also referred to by George Washington as the "most beautiful of the Cabinet ladies." She died in 1813.

William Williams

Married Mary Trumbull Williams (1745-1831) in 1771, the daughter of "Brother Jonathan" Trumbull, War Governor of Connecticut. Together they had three children together. She lived twenty years past her husband, dying in Lebanon in the year 1831.

Oliver Wolcott

Married Laura Collins (1733-1794) in January of 1759, the daughter of wealthy landowners in Guilford Connecticut. Together they had five children, one of whom died in infancy. She was a capable woman, and handled the affairs on the Wolcott farm with great wisdom when Oliver was away on business. She died in April of 1794, before Oliver became Governor of Connecticut.


Thomas McKean

Married Mary Borden (1744-1773) in 1763, and together they had six children. They were only married ten years before her death in 1773.

Married Sarah Armitage on September 2, 1774 and together they had four children, one of whom died in infancy. The portrait by Charles Wilson Peale (shown at right) depicts Sarah and daughter Mary Louisa.

George Read

Married Gertrude Ross Till (1733 -September 2, 1802) on January 11, 1763, and together they had five children. Gertrude was the daughter of the Reverend George Ross, the Anglican rector of Immanuel Church in New Castle sister of George Ross a future signer of the Declaration of Independence. Gertrude was a widow, previously married to Thomas Till. She was an avid gardener, and a lover of tulips, and spent many hours tending to them. Gertrude died on September 2, 1802, at her home in New Castle, Delaware.

Caesar Rodney

Never Married.


Button Gwinnett

Married Ann Bourne, the daughter of a local grocer, on April 19, 1757 at St. Peter's Church in Staffordshire, England. The couple moved to America in 1762 to build a new life in America. Together they had four children, only one of which lived to adulthood. Little is known about Ann's life.

Lyman Hall

Married Abigail Burr in 1752, but she lived only a year afterwards.

Married Mary Osborne in 1757, the daughter of Samuel and Hannah Osborn. Together they had one son. Mary died in 1791, a year after Lyman passed away.

George Walton

Married Dorothy Camber in Savannah in September of 1778. Together they had two children, both sons. She died in 1832 in Pensacola, FL.


Charles Carroll

Married his cousin Mary "Molly" Darnall on June 5, 1768. the granddaughter of Henry Darnall, former Chancellor of Maryland. Together they had seven children, only three of which made it to adulthood. Mary died in 1782.

Samuel Chase

Married Ann "Nancy" Baldwin in May of 1762, the daughter of Thomas and Agnes Baldwin. Samuel and Ann had had seven children, with only four surviving to adulthood. According to Samuel's biographer, they married for love, and neither of them gained financially from the match. Ann died in 1776, never seeing the United States secure its freedom.

Married Hannah Kilty Giles in Spring of 1783, and together they had two daughters.

William Paca

Married Ann "Molly" Mary Chew (1736-1774) on May 26, 1763, the daughter of a prominent Maryland planter and a direct descendant of a settler of Jamestown. Together they had three children, two of whom died in infancy. Molly died in 1774 due to complications from the birth of their third child.

Married Ann Harrison in 1777, a daughter of the Philadelphian merchant Henry Harrison. She was sixteen years younger than he was. She died in 1780 in childbirth. The child did not survive past infancy.

Thomas Stone

Married Margaret Brown (1751-1787) in 1768, the daughter of Dr. Gustavus R. Brown, a very wealthy man and the builder of Rose Hill. Together they had three children, and were very devoted to one another. When she died in 1787 from mercury poisoning, a long and drawn out affair, Stone sank into a depression and died suddenly that same year.


John Adams

Married his cousin Abigail Smith (November 22, 1744 - October 28, 1818) October 25, 1764. Abigail is remembered best for the hundreds of letters she wrote to her husband while he was away at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Abigail was well-versed in politics, philosophy, art, and many other topics, and thus, she was a great friend and advisor to John throughout his career. Together the couple had six children, only four of whom would make it to adulthood. Abigail died of typhoid fever on October 28, 1818.

Samuel Adams

Married Elizabeth Checkley (1725-1757) in October, 1749. She was the daughter of his pastor, the Reverend Samuel Checkley. Elizabeth gave birth to five children, but only two would live to adulthood. On July 25, 1757, Elizabeth died soon after giving birth to a stillborn son. Samuel wrote of her in the family bible: "To her husband she was as sincere a friend as she was a faithful wife."

Adams married again in 1764, to Elizabeth "Betsy" Wells, but would have no other children. Elizabeth remained devoted to him throughout their marriage, despite his neglect due to matters of business and politics.

Elbridge Gerry

Married Ann Thompson, the daughter of a wealthy New York merchant James Thompson; his best man was his good friend James Monroe. Together they had ten children between 1787 and 1801, which had severe effects on Ann's health. Yet, despite her frailty, Ann lived until 1849, and became the oldest surviving widow of the Declaration of Independence.

John Hancock

Married Dorothy "Dolly" Quincy (born May 10, 1747) on August 23,1775 in Fairfield, Connecticut. John and Dolly would have two children, neither of whom survived to adulthood. According to legend, Dolly was present while the Battle of Lexington was being fought, watched through the window of her Aunt Lydia. When John died, Dolly married again to Captain Scott. The exact date of her death is unknown.

Robert Treat Paine

Married Sally Cobb (May 15, 1744 - June 6, 1816) on March 15, 1770, the daughter of Thomas and Lydia Cobb and a sister of General David Cobb. Together they had eight children.

New Hampshire

Josiah Bartlett

Married his cousin Mary Bartlett (1734-1789) on January 15, 1754, the daughter of his uncle, Joseph. She was a great consultant and advisor to Josiah throughout his career. Over the years they would have 12 children, eight of whom would reach adulthood. Mary died in their home in Kingston on July 14, 1789, leaving her husband grief-stricken.

Matthew Thornton

Married Hannah Jack (1742 - December 5, 1786) in 1760, daughter of Andrew Jack and Mary Morrison. Together they had five children. She died in 1786.

William Whipple

Married his first cousin Catherine Moffat in 1771. Together they had one daughter who died soon after birth. Little is known about Catherine, as few records were kept about their marriage.

New Jersey

Abraham Clark

Married Sarah Hatfield (1728 -2 Jun 1804) in 1748, daughter of Isaac Hatfield and Sarah Price. Together the couple had ten children, two of whom died young. She is remembered for having been resourceful during her husband's years in public service.

John Hart

Married Deborah Scudder in 1739, the only child of Richard Scudder from Scudder Falls. Together they had thirteen children, one of whom died in infancy. Deborah died on October 8, 1776.

Francis Hopkinson

Married Ann Borden on September 1, 1768, daughter of Colonel Joseph Borden and Elizabeth Rogers. They would have nine children, only five of whom would reach adulthood.

Richard Stockton

Married Annis Boudinot (July 1, 1736 - February 6, 1801) in 1757, sister of New Jersey statesman Elias Boudinot. Annis, who became known as the "Duchess of Morven," was an esteemed poet, and many of her works appeared in contemporary newspapers and magazines. She also kept correspondence with George Washington, sending him many poems and letters. She was the only woman to become a member of the American Whig Society. Richard and Annis had six children. She died in 1801, twenty years after her husband.

John Witherspoon

Married Elizabeth Montgomery (1721-1789) on September 2, 1748. Together they had ten children, with five surviving to adulthood. Elizabeth died suddenly in October 1789.

After Elizabeth died, John married the widow of Dr. Dill of Philadelphia.

New York

William Floyd

Married Hannah Jones (1740-May 16, 1781) on August 23, 1760, daughter of William Jones of Southampton, NY. Together they had three children. She died on May 16, 1781.

After Hannah died, he married again to Joanna Strong (January 4 1747 - 24 November 1826), daughter of Benjah and Martha Mills. Joanna and William had two more children. She died on 24 November 1826.

Francis Lewis

Married Elizabeth Annesley, on June 15, 1745. Together they had seven children, four of whom would die in infancy. She was a woman of high character, noted due to her calm reaction to the British opening fire on her home and then taking her captive. As a result of her imprisonment, however, her health declined rapidly. She died in June of 1779.

Philip Livingston

Married Christina Ten Broeck (1718-1801) on April 14, 1740, daughter of Dirk and Margarita Ten Broeck. Together they had nine children.

Lewis Morris

Married Mary Walton (May 14, 1727 - March 11, 1794) on September 24, 1749, the daughter of New York merchants Jacob and Maria Walton. Together they had ten children.

North Carolina

Joseph Hewes

Never Married.

William Hooper

Married Anne Clark on August 16, 1767, the daughter of Thomas Clark, Sr. and Barbara Murray, a well-to-do family from New Hanover County. Together the couple had six children, three of whom died in infancy. She died in August of 1795.

John Penn

Married Susanna Lyne on July 28, 1763. Together they had three children, one of whom died in infancy. Little is known about Susanna.


George Clymer

Married Elizabeth Meredith (1743-1815) on March 18, 1765. Elizabeth was born into a prominent Philadelphia family who were close friends with George Washington. Together they had nine children, five of whom reached adulthood. John Adams, after meeting her at a social dinner, described her in his diary as a "very facetious and social lady." She died in 1815, two years after her husband, in their estate in Summerseat, Pennsylvania.

Benjamin Franklin

Entered into a common-law marriage with Deborah Read (February 14, 1708 - December 19, 1774) in 1730. Their marriage would have been legal, except that Deborah was already married to John Rodgers, who had fled to Barbados to avoid his debts, never to return. Deborah was pivotal in raising Franklin's first son, and together they had two more children. Their daughter, Sally, died of smallpox as a child. She died of a stroke on December 14, 1774.

Robert Morris

Married Mary White (1749-1827) on March 2, 1769, and together they had seven children. Mary was born to Colonel Thomas and Esther White from a prominent family in Maryland, and her brother was Anglican Bishop William White. Mary was known for her hospitality, and was one of most well-liked women of her generation. She did in 1827, at the age of 78.

John Morton

Married Anne Justice (1729-1818) in 1745. Together they had nine children. After John's death in 1777, the British ransacked the Morton residence and Ann was forced to flee with her family across the Delaware River. Much of the documentation about their private lives was lost as a result of the destruction. She died in 1818.

George Ross

Married Ann Lawler (July 10, 1731 - May 28, 1773) on August 14, 1751, the only child of Mary Lawler, a widow of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The couple had three children together. Ann died many years before George in 1773.

Benjamin Rush

Married Julia Stockton (1759-July 7, 1848) on January 11, 1776, daughter of Richard Stockton, another signer of the Declaration of Independence. Together they had thirteen children, nine of whom would survive infancy. Julia was one of the "wives of Philadelphia" remembered for her efforts to raise money for the Continental Army. Julia died at the age of eighty-nine on July 7, 1848.

James Smith

Married Eleanor Amor (1728-1818) in 1760, the daughter of John Armour. Together they had five children, only three of whom survived to adulthood. She kept charge of the family plantation while James was away on political business. She died in 1818, twelve years after the death of her husband.

George Taylor

Married Ann "Nancy" (Taylor) Savage in 1742, the widow of his master Samuel Savage Jr. to whom he had been indentured. Together the couple had two children. Nancy died suddenly in 1768, the same year that George had erected the George Taylor Mansion.

James Wilson

Married Rachel Bird (1750-1786) on November 5, 1771, the daughter of William Bird and Bridget Hulings. Together they had six children. Rachel died in 1786.

After Rachel died, James married Hannah Gray (April 4, 1760 - 1834) on September 19, 1793. They had a son, who died in infancy. When James died, Hannah married again to Thomas Bartlett.

Rhode Island

William Ellery

Married Ann Remington (1724-1764) on October 11, 1750, the daughter of Jonathan Remington and Lucy Bradstreet. Together they had seven children, five of whom survived to adulthood. She died in Newport, RI on September 7, 1764.

After Ann died, William married his second cousin Abigail Cary (1742-1793) in 1767, the daughter of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Wanton Cary. Together they had eight children, six of whom died young.

Stephen Hopkins

Married Sarah Scott (1707-September 9, 1753) on October 9, 1726, the daughter of Sylvanus Scott and Joanna Jenckes and descendent of Richard Scott, the first Quaker in Providence. Together they had had seven children, two of whom died in infancy. She died peacefully on September 9, 1753.

After Sarah died, Stephen married again to Anne Smith (1717-1782) in 1755. They would have no children together, but Anne had three children from her previous marriage to Benjamin Smith. The exact date of her death is unknown, although historians place it at about two years before Stephen's death in 1785.

South Carolina

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Married Elizabeth Matthews (1753-1782), the daughter of John and Sarah Gibbes Matthews. Together they had six children, only one of whom survived to adulthood. Elizabeth died in childbirth in Philadelphia in 1782.

Married again to Elizabeth Savage (1769-1833), daughter of Col. Thomas and Mary Elliott Savage of Charleston, S.C. Together the couple had three children who survived to adulthood.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Married Elizabeth Shubrick on May 13, 1772, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Baker Shubrick. Together they had no children. In 1779, when Thomas became gravely ill, Elizabeth and Thomas left South Carolina for the Caribbean. Their ship was lost at sea.

Arthur Middleton

Married Mary Izard on August 19, 1764, daughter of Walter Izard, a justice of the peace at Cedar Grove. They took a three year tour together of Europe beginning in 1770. Together they had nine children. Mary died in 1814, twenty-seven years after her husband.

Edward Rutledge

Married Arthur Middleton's sister, Henrietta Middleton (1750-1792) on March 1, 1774. Together the couple had three children, two of whom would survive infancy. Henrietta died in 1792.

Edward married again to Mary Shubrick Eveleigh (February 11, 1754 - October 22, 1837), sister in law to two other signers, Thomas Heyward, Jr. and Thomas Lynch, Jr.


Carter Braxton

Married Judith Robinson in 1755, a wealthy heiress and the daughter of Christopher and Judith Robinson of Hewick. The couple had two daughters together. Judith died two years after their marriage, shortly after giving birth to their second daughter.

He married again to Elizabeth Corbin (1747-1814) in 1761, the daughter of Colonel Richard Corbin and Elizabeth Tayloe. Together they had sixteen children, ten of whom survived infancy.

Benjamin Harrison

Married his second cousin Elizabeth "Betsy" Bassett (December 13, 1730 - 1782) in 1748, daughter of William Bassett and niece to Martha Washington. Together they had eight children who survived to adulthood, one of whom, William Henry Harrison, would become president in 1840. Betsy died in 1782.

Thomas Jefferson

Married the widow Martha Wayles Skelton (October 30 1748 - September 6, 1782) on January 1, 1772. She was previously married to Bathurst Skelton, a Virginia attorney before he died in November of 1767. Martha was an accomplished pianist, and it is said that the Thomas and she found each other through their mutual love of music. The couple had six children together, only two of whom (Martha "Patsy" and Mary "Polly") made to adulthood. Martha died in September of 1782, shortly after the birth of her last child.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Married his second cousin Rebecca "Becky" Plater Tayloe in 1772, the daughter of John Tayloe II, the founder of Mount Airy. Soon after, Lee built his mansion, Menokin, in honor of his young wife in Warsaw, VA. She died in the winter of 1797, the same year as her husband.

Richard Henry Lee

Married Anne Aylett (1738-1768) on December 5, 1757, daughter of William Aylett and Elizabeth Eskridge. Together they had five children, thee of whom survived to adulthood. Anne died on December 12, 1768.

Married again to the widow Anne Gaskins Pinckard in 1769. Anne had two children from a previous marriage. Richard and Anne together had five more children. She died in 1796.

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Married Lucy Grymes (1734-1792) on July 29, 1762, the daughter Charles and Francis Grymes. Together they had 11 children.

George Wythe

Married Ann Lewis in 1748. She died eight months later.

After Ann died, Wythe married again to Elizabeth Taliaferro (1739- - August 1787) in 1755. Together the couple had one child who died in infancy. Elizabeth died in 1787.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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