The only Brooklyn town founded by a woman

Of 17th century Brooklyn’s original six towns, five (anglicized as Brooklyn, Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, and New Utrecht), were settled by Dutch men.

And then there’s Gravesend—founded in the 1640s by Lady Deborah Moody, a wealthy English widow who crossed the Atlantic to freely practice Anabaptism, a protestant sect that opposed infant baptism (they were  the forerunners to Quakers).

She must have been tough: Lady Moody was the only woman known to launch a settlement in colonial North America.

Tolerant Dutch leaders in New Amsterdam gave her a land grant “beginning at the mouth of a creek adjacent to Coneyne Island” and let her divide the new town into parcels.

What’s amazing is that today’s Gravesend still has a very off-the-grid quality. Village Road North and Village Road South cut through the neighborhood.

Two 17th century cemeteries, Gravesend and Van Sicklen, sit on one side of Gravesend Neck Road. On the other side is the little sloping house where Lady Moody supposedly (but probably didn’t) live.

Rumor has it the house served as a hospital during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776.

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10 Responses to “The only Brooklyn town founded by a woman”

  1. New York Online: Shipwrecks and Subway Riders Edition - Says:

    […] Scouting New York photographs an empty church for rent in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; Ephemeral New York ruminates on Gravesend, the only one of the Brooklyn’s original six towns to be incorporated by a woman […]

  2. RyanAvenueA Says:

    Wouldn’t be the first moody woman to send men to their graves.

  3. William Lawson Says:

    Check out the historical marker page for Gravesend at:

  4. brendan Says:

    She was the only SUCCESSFUL woman to start a settlement, I’d argue. Anne Hutchinson was given the same rights by the Dutch governor to start a settlement in what is now the Bronx. Unfortunately she and almost her entire family were killed by Natives after only a year or so. Though her family was reportedly friendly to the Indians, tensions between the Native and the Dutch caused the Natives to (most likely) carry out their frustrations on the Hutchinsons.

    Today she is remembered by the Hutchinson River Parkway which would cut through what her property was back in the 1643.

    Love your blog btw!

  5. “Afternoon by the sea at Gravesend Bay” « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Cod? England? France? It’s actually Gravesend, a town settled by British Quakers in Southern Brooklyn, as depicted in 1888 by William Merritt […]

  6. Jamie Dedes Says:


    I was just thinking about doing a post on the Union Cemetery in Redwood City, CA when I started thinking about how much older the cemeteries in Brooklyn are. I was hoping to find a website for Van Sicklen, but this is a much nicer find. Well done.

  7. wildnewyork Says:

    Thank you! Check out some of the other Brooklyn cemeteries here.

  8. A sleepy, beachy view across Gravesend Bay | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] in the 1640s by a group of religious dissenters, it went from colonial-era English town to farm community to the site of late 19th century beach […]

  9. Emulating Johnny Malone (Old Post) – My Vivid Blog Says:

    […] […]

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