Catherine Littlefield Greene - Recovering After Nathanael

Recovering After Nathanael

Once again, she took on the familiar role of being both mother and father to her children. She met the pressures of rearing her children and handling Nathanael's devastated finances with courage and determination. With the help of the new plantation manager, Phineas Miller (who had been her children's tutor), Mulberry Grove was thriving by 1788.

At the urging of a trusted adviser, she personally presented to the United States Congress a petition for indemnity to recover funds that Nathanael had paid to Charleston merchants. On April 27, 1792, President George Washington approved and signed an act that indemnified the Greene estate. In a happy letter to a friend, she wrote:

I can tell you my Dear friend that I am in good health and spirits and feel as saucy as you please-not only because I am independent, but because I have gained a complete triumph over some of my friends who did not wish me success-and others who doubted my judgement in managing the business and constantly tormented me to death to give up my obstinancy as it was called-they are now as mute as mice-Not a word dare they utter... O how sweet is revenge!

That same year, Catherine met a young man named Eli Whitney, who tutored her neighbor's children. With her encouragement he took up residence at Mulberry Grove to pursue his inventions. Within a year he had produced a model for the cotton gin.

In an 1883 article in The North American Review titled "Woman as Inventor", the early feminist and abolitionist Matilda Joslyn Gage claimed that Greene suggested to Whitney the use of a brush-like component instrumental in separating out the seeds and cotton. To date there has been no independent verification of Greene's role in the invention of the gin. However, many believe that Eli Whitney received the patent for the gin and the sole credit in history textbooks for its invention only because social norms inhibited women from registering for patents.

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