Eliza Jumel, born Eliza Bowen (April 7, 1775 – July 16, 1865), was notable as a wealthy American socialite through marriage.
Early life and education
She was born Eliza Bowen in Providence, Rhode Island, to Phebe Kelley Bowen, a prostitute. As a child, Eliza worked as a cleaning girl in the brothel where her mother worked, but never as a prostitute. She later claimed to have been born on the high seas to a French naval officer and his aristocratic English wife.
She moved to New York, where she became a local actress. Through her performing career, she met and married the wealthy French wine merchant Stephen Jumel in 1804. Due to her low social standing, she was rejected by New York society. In 1810, they moved to what became known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion.
In 1815, she traveled to Paris and became accepted as a Bonapartist sympathizer, going so far as to offer Napoleon safe passage to New York after his defeat at Waterloo, which he declined. She taught herself French, and she and her husband Stephen conversed in both French and English. Her opinions and actions in France proved too controversial, and in 1816, she was asked to leave the country by King Louis XVIII.
After leaving France, she returned to her home in New York, and her marriage began to deteriorate as Stephen Jumel, who stayed behind in France, saw his fortune decline. Eliza managed the estate with a good business acumen, and proved an astute investor. Through her initiative, the couples' finances were saved from ruin.
Stephen Jumel died in 1832, and rumors persisted that Eliza had let him bleed to death. Fourteen months after her first husband's death, Eliza Jumel married the controversial former United States Vice President Aaron Burr. She supposedly married to increase her stature; he, for access to her fortune. Burr in turn misused the remnants of the Jumel fortune, and the two divorced on September 14, 1836, the date of Burr's death. Jumel lived for the rest of her life in the Manhattan mansion, and died at age 90 in 1865. She was buried in Manhattan at the Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum.
- "Jumel, Eliza Bowen". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1892.
- "Eliza Bowen Jumel biography". Find-A-Grave. Retrieved 2007-10-07.