Brent, Margaret

Brent, Margaret,

1600?–1671?, early American feminist, b. Gloucester, England. With her two brothers and a sister, she left England to settle (1638) in St. Marys City, Md., where she acquired an extensive estate; she was the first woman in Maryland to hold land in her own right. Under the will of Gov. Leonard Calvert, Margaret Brent was made executor of his estates. She also acted as attorney (i.e., agent) for Lord Baltimore. As an important woman of affairs in the colony, she demanded (1648) a place in the colonial assembly. Her claim was refused while the heirs contested her handling of the Calvert estates. Shortly thereafter she moved to Virginia but kept her Maryland property.


See M. E. W. Ramey, Chronicles of Mistress Margaret Brent (1915); E. A. Dexter, Colonial Women of Affairs (1924, repr. 1972).

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Brent, Margaret

(1600–71) colonial landowner; born in Gloucester, England. Daughter of an aristocrat, she came to Maryland in 1638 and through connections and business acumen enlarged her original land grant as Maryland's first female landowner. She actively supported military defense of the colony. Upon the death of her brother-in-law, Leonard Calvert, she became executor of his estate; after the Maryland assembly denied her appeal for two votes in the proceedings, one as landowner and one as attorney to the Baltimore family, she moved to Virginia (c. 1651), where she developed another large property. Sometimes cited today as a pioneering protofeminist lawyer, she seems to have acted basically as a strong-willed property owner, making no claims as a woman, nor in any way practicing law.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.