From the time I first listened to the Hamilton cast recording, I have been obsessed with Angelica Schuyler. In the musical, Angelica is a fierce and brilliant woman who balanced loyalty to her sister with her love for her brother-in-law Alexander Hamilton. The historical Angelica was all that and more. She regularly corresponded with the leaders of the American Revolution, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. When the Marquis de Lafayette was imprisoned during the French Revolution, Angelica’s influence helped lead to his release. She was brave, intelligent, and a strong advocate for American independence.
Since March is Women’s History Month, Angelica Schuyler has been on my mind as a prime example of what we miss out on when we ignore talented women. I believe Angelica would have been a political force in a society that valued women’s contributions. Here are a few characteristics that would have made her such an extraordinary political leader:
- Political astuteness: Angelica was highly informed about politics and history. Brilliant men considered her an equal when discussing current affairs—a particularly impressive feat in an era where women didn’t have the right to vote or the option to run for political office.
- Relationship-building: Angelica established influential relationships with many leaders of her day, including those who had diametrically opposed political viewpoints. Given her ability to find consensus among people with strong personalities, it is easy to see her as a power broker at the Constitutional Convention or in a cabinet meeting.
- Ambition: Angelica always encouraged her brother-in-law’s political ambitions and urged him to continue his political life, perhaps suggesting her own interest in leading a political life, had such an option been open to her.
We will never know how profoundly different our political systems would be if the voices of Angelica and other women had been included in the decisions that shaped our country. And Angelica, due to her race, wealth, and social connections, was more influential than most; how many brilliant women do we not even know about because they were born into poverty or slavery?
To me, the example of Angelica Schuyler is so profound because almost every other aspect of our society has dramatically changed since the American Revolution—but workplaces are still failing to provide opportunities for talented women to fully contribute. Whether it’s due to the absence of paid maternity leave, misogynistic recruitment practices, toxic bro cultures, or blatant sexual harassment, organizations are still missing out on the potential for talented women to play a transformative role in the workplace.
The factors contributing to this are complex, and some organizations are starting to take concrete steps to correct this imbalance. As the hard but vital work of gender equity in the workplace continues, I personally am motivated by the example of Angelica Schuyler to ensure that we do not continue missing out on exceptional talent.