Rachel Douw was born in February 1736. She was the ninth and last child born to the marriage of Petrus and Anna Van Rensselaer Douw. Her father was a member of the provincial Assembly and her mother was the daughter of the most affluent regional family. She grew up in a large family in the heart of Albany and across the river at the family farm. All of her siblings also lived to reach maturity.
Although four sisters married into some of the most prominent regional families, Rachel remained single and, with her much older and unmarried sister, stayed under the family umbrella for an entire life. Their mother passed on in 1756 and the father died suddenly in 1775. At that point, Rachel and her sister were thrust to the forefront of an early Albany household.
Living in a family home on Court Street, the now aging Douw sisters relied on their family's patriotism to survive the war even though they sought to accompany their sister and next-door neighbor to New York to visit their brother-in-law - an exiled Tory physician.
With the coming of peace, Catherine and Rachel settled into their comfortable home that was served by as many as six slaves. Catherine the elder was the nominal head of the household as listed on the census. Their woman-headed household was an example of a growing phenomena in American cities like post-war Albany.
Rachel Douw died suddenly on August 4, 1806 at the age of seventy. As all but one of her siblings already had passed on, her will did not pass probate until February 1811 - following the death of her sister Catherine.
Sources: The life of Rachel Douw is CAP biography number 2168. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.
first posted: 10/15/08