Who was Elizabeth Howard West?

Elizabeth Howard West with a cat resting in a cat bed basket, circa the 1940s. PH31-15-1

Meet Elizabeth Howard West (and her cat)! West moved to Nantucket from New Bedford in the early 1880s with her husband, John, and their three children. With Wampanoag and African American heritage, West was a descendant of Paul Cuffe Slocum (1759-1817), a noted whaler and abolitionist.

John and Elizabeth opened a hairdressing and laundry service together, with Elizabeth managing the finances, the laundry, and the ladies’ hairstyling, while John barbered the men.

In 1889, Elizabeth bought a property in her own name on Atlantic Ave., near her established home on New Street, which the family had purchased four years earlier. Leading a busy life on the island, West raised six more children, but unfortunately, she lost two in their infant years.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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