Pioneering Postmaster Sarah Decrow

A Rural Free Delivery mail carrier at Chadbourn, early 1900s. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina women’s history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit on the women of our state’s past.

Though she was first woman postmaster in the United States after the adoption of the Constitution, Sarah Decrow was born and died in near obscurity. Since most of her private correspondence has been lost to history, almost all of what we know about her comes from court records. After the death of her first husband, she became a visible and controversial figure in the community. She was in and out of courtrooms for years as both a plaintiff and a defendant, getting in trouble over accusations of trespassing, adultery and tax excavation and taking her detractors to court for libel and slander. Future Supreme Court justice and notable Edenton resident James Iredell even once served as her counsel. Decrow’s tenacious nature didn’t subside after she was commissioned as a postmaster in September 1792. In fact, she threatened to resign, feeling she had not been paid enough for her services. Assured by that she received the highest rate allowed for her position she continued in the office until the end of her life.

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