Socialite. The penniless beauty Eliza Bowen acquired a life of luxury upon her marriage to Stephen Jumel, a wealthy French wine merchant who bought the elegant Morris Mansion for her in 1810. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, to a prostitute named Phebe Kelley Bowen and a sailor who had been her lover, the stigma of illegitimacy and life in the local poorhouse fired Eliza's obsession with wealth and social status, and she would later claim to have have been born on the high seas, the daughter of a French naval officer and his aristocratic English wife. Allegedly a former prostitute, she was shunned by New York society, but met with a warmer reception when the Jumels traveled to France. There she charmed Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who bestowed various gifts upon her, including several pieces of furniture which may still be seen in the Morris-Jumel Mansion. The Jumels' marital affections ended long before their marriage, however, and her reputation became even more notorious when her husband died in 1832 and rumors persisted that she had deliberately let him bleed to death. Unfazed by public opinion, a year later the merry widow married Aaron Burr, the former United States Vice-President who was infamous for his killing of Alexander Hamilton. She sued Burr for divorce soon afterwards, however, claiming that he was a fortune-hunter. Although divorce was both rare and considered disgraceful by the standards of the time, she was more than accustomed to living with scandal. Reverting to her former married name, Madame Jumel lived in style until her death at age 90 in 1865. Her home, the Morris-Jumel Mansion, at Edgecombe Avenue and 160th Street, is a short walk from Trinity Cemetery.
Bio by: Nikita Barlow