Elizabeth Glover, a young black girl
Elizabeth Glover was admitted to the St. Andrew Undershaft Workhouse on July 17th, 1733. She was referred to only to as a poor, black child. Eliza, as she was often called, was likely an orphan or an illegitimate child, whose guardian was her grandmother, also named Elizabeth Glover. Eliza might have been admitted to St. Andrew when she was orphaned; there was often no other place for poor orphans or illegitimate children to go, and as a black child, her options might have been more limited. She may have instead lived with her grandmother for some time. As an elderly woman, and possibly a widow, it would have been difficult for Eliza’s grandmother to provide for both herself and Eliza. Regardless of how she found her way there, Eliza was one of the first paupers admitted into St. Andrew Undershaft. Space in the workhouse was initially in high demand, and she might have been lucky to secure her spot.
Just as Eliza was settling in to her new home, the Board of Directors of the Workhouse began to prepare her to work her way out of poverty. On November 23rd, 1733, 4 months after she was admitted to the workhouse, she was to “bee put to School.” Her schooling, like every other aspect of Eliza’s was likely contained in the Workhouse. This was similar to other English early modern institutions and was meant to totally immerse the paupers in the Workhouse, with the eventual goal of teaching them the ethics of hard work, and maybe a skill, so they could work their way out of poverty. It was also to be determined “whether she have been baptized.” England in this period was dominated by the Church of England. The welfare system, administered primarily through Workhouses, was inspired by protestant values and deeply grounded in religious thought. It was important that Eliza be baptized to live in this institution, and so that she could be a respectable member of English society.
For Eliza, work opportunities came with relative frequency. Despite every disadvantage of being an impoverished black child in an almost entirely white society, Eliza Glover was offered multiple apprenticeships during her time in the workhouse. She was offered her first apprenticeship in October of 1736 to a framework knitter named Susanna Bailey. She was again offered an apprenticeship to William Rolls, a weaver from “Butler Alley on Windmill Hill near Moorfield.” We could infer that she was therefore very hard working and obedient in the workhouse, and earned these offers despite the racial discrimination she may have experienced.
For more information about how we constructed this biography from sources on Eliza’s life, click on the link on the right.