In many ways, Elizabeth Murray was a woman ahead of her times. She became a successful businesswoman and shopkeeper, using her success to assist other women in securing economic independence at a time when unmarried women had few career opportunities. Born in 1727 in Scotland, Murray and her siblings came here as orphans. At 22, she began to import British goods, catering to the passionate consumer culture of the 18th century. She did the buying and selling -- a woman of fashion with her own Boston shop. A 1750s advertisement says Murray offered “flower’d Velvets and Capuchin Silks,…Bone Lace,…Sattins of all Colours…the newest fashion’d Hoops, Caps, Ruffles…Trimmings of all Sorts…” As an independent career woman, Murray was unusual but not unique. She trained others for business, helping them establish shops, and also ran an embroidery school. Her work continued through three marriages, in which prenuptial agreements protected her wealth when marriage often stripped wives of money and property. Two of her business proteges, Elizabeth and Ame Cumming, were also members of King's Chapel. The Cumming sisters described Murray as a "kind adviser." After Murray's death in 1785, she was buried next door in the King's Chapel Burying Ground, alongside her second husband, James Smith.
Learn more about Elizabeth Murray's life and legacy by visiting the Elizabeth Murray Project from California State University, Long Beach.