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Archives & Special Collections: Martha Bradstreet 1774-1868


A self-taught litigant, Martha Bradstreet was born in the British West Indies and immigrated to the United States in 1799.  After a divorce, she took the unusual step of obtaining permission from the New York State Legislature to use her maiden name.  She then began legal proceedings to reclaim land around Utica, NY to which she felt entitled, according to the will of an ancestor.  Most of the lawsuit was filed in a District Court before Judge Alfred Conkling (Union College class of 1810), who consistently ruled against her.

Primary Sources

Martha Bradstreet Papers held in the Union College Special Collections. MSS 687, Location N7:26 (Special Collections).

New York Heritage Digital Collections has digitized a collection of Martha Bradstreet's papers which includes correspondence, legal documents relating to court proceedings over land, and miscellaneous items such as religious documents.

Library Databases

Secondary Sources

Blaakman, Michael A. "Martha Bradstreet and the "Epithet of Women"." Early American Studies 13.3 (2015): 544-585. 

Jonas, Harold J.. “ALFRED CONKLING, JURIST AND GENTLEMAN”. New York History 20.3 (1939): 295–305.

Narrett, David E. Inheritance and Family Life in Colonial New York CityIthaca: Cornell University Press, 1992. Print.

Salmon, Marylynn. Women and the Law of Property in Early AmericaChapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 1986. Print.

Ryan, Mary P. Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Print.

Bagg, M.M. The Pioneers of Utica: Being Sketches of Its Inhabitants and Its Institutions; with the Civil History of the Place, from the Earliest Settlement to the Year 1825, the Era of the Opening of the Erie Canal. Utica: Curtiss & Childs, 1877. Print.